March 5, 2014
By Joe Maniscalco
Queens, NY – This week marks Latoye Wilson’s 14th year working for the Department of Sanitation – and despite the many demands of the job and still being among a very small percentage of female workers hauling trash – the Suffolk County mom says she has the “best job in the city.”
“I love being on the streets with the people,” Wilson tells LaborPress. “They see me and they’re so happy that I’m on the job and I’m a doing something like this. And that makes me happy. It’s fun.”
Wilson was working security at Coney Island Hospital in Brooklyn when she originally was tapped to join the ranks of New York City’s “Strongest” back in 2000.
An uncle with 20 years on the job had encouraged Latoye, then just 23-years-old, to take the Sanitation Department test convinced of what a wise career move it would be for his young niece.
“I grew up not seeing women on the job at all,” Wilson says. “And I wasn’t thinking career-wise at the time. So, I didn’t have any fear or anything. I just went in – and it turned out awesome.”
Since then, Wilson says that “everyone has always been nice and encouraging,” and that slowly, over time, she has begun to see more women on the job.
“Absolutely,” says Wilson. “I think when I came on, I was the only woman in my class of about 100-plus. But as the years have gone by, I’ve noticed more and more women in those classes. And that’s a good thing.”
According to Wilson, who works the 4 to 12 p.m. shift out of the Queens West 1 Garage in Astoria, the women that she meets on the job have grown a lot less reticent about considering similar careers with the DSNY.
“I think women are less afraid to ask about the job,” Wilson says. “We have conversations all the time when I’m on the street. They ask me, ‘Is it hard?’ ‘Do you think I can do it?’ How do you get on if you have a kid?’ I just tell them that you can do it.”
Childcare, is one of Wilson’s biggest concerns, and making sure that 4-year-old son Kenneph is in good hands, is sometimes challenging.
“The most important thing is having coverage for him,” Wilson says. “As long as I know that I have coverage for him and know that he is safe, then I can go to work every day and do my job.”
Although less than 200 of the Sanitation Department’s approximately 6200-member workforce are female, the Local 831 member says that both the city and the union are sensitive to the day-to-day realities facing today’s working women.
“Kenneph’s dad also works for the Sanitation Department doing the 12-hour morning shift,” Wilson says. “So, sometimes, you get jammed up. But the job works with you. And I depend on the union too, to help me in that way.”
Despite more than a decade on the job, Wilson remains enthusiastic about both the vital work she performs for the city and the special people she meets along the way.
She may have not been thinking longterm when her uncle first advised her to take the Sanitation Department test, but Wilson’s glad that she did. And now, would like others to follow in her footsteps.
“I’m happy that I did it,” Wilson says. “And I would encourage a lot more women to take the test as well.”
Now, may be the perfect opportunity. The DSNY brought on 459 new Sanitation Workers in fiscal year 2013. And just last month, Union leader Harry Nespoli called on the de Blasio administration to hire 400 additional workers.