I got my first job as a sanitation worker in 1985 at a private company in the Bronx. The pay – $16.10 an hour – was good for a 15-year-old black man at the time. And it was more than a job; it was the beginning of a career.
In the three decades that followed, I saw this industry decline to the point that workers are starting just above minimum wage. My son followed in my footsteps and became a sanitation worker a few years ago. In a generation, the starting wage had fallen to about $11 per hour.
After 30 years of watching my livelihood deteriorate, after seeing my son enter a job that was no longer the career I had, and after seeing my fellow workers endure longer and longer hours and be exposed to unconscionable safety risks, I said enough was enough. I went to work for my union, Teamsters Local 813, to organize workers and take back this industry for the people who work in it. View the video and more, here.