NEW YORK, N.Y.—After months of pressure from community groups and the Teamsters Union, the New York City Business Integrity Commission suspended the operating license of the Bronx’s largest private-trash collection company Aug. 24.
The company, Sanitation Salvage, had been under scrutiny after two fatal accidents in the past year. Last November, Mouctar Diallo, a 21-year-old immigrant from Guinea who’d been working off the books as a helper, was crushed to death when he fell off a truck while it was turning a corner. Sean Spence, the driver, and the other company employee aboard told police that Diallo was a homeless man who’d tried to climb on. In April, Leo Clarke, a 72-year-old Jamaican immigrant, was killed when he was hit by a Sanitation Salvage truck, also driven by Spence, while crossing a street in the South Bronx.
The city Sanitation Department will collect garbage from the Hunts Point-based company’s customers until they can find a new carter, according to the Transform Don’t Trash NYC coalition, which includes the Teamsters. The Business Integrity Commission banned Spence from working in the industry earlier this month.
Sanitation Salvage, Teamsters Joint Council 16 President George Miranda said at a Bronx protest in June, is “one of the bad actors” among the private companies that remove garbage from businesses in the city. Its workers do shifts as long as 18 to 20 hours, he said, and those off the books, like Diallo, get paid $80 or less.
It’s also one of several companies in the private cartage industry where workers have “phantom unions, as opposed to a legitimate AFL-CIO union,” he told LaborPress at that rally. It had been a union shop, but its employees are now supposedly represented by an “independent union” called Local 124. Teamsters Local 813, which represents workers at private sanitation companies, has often found itself competing with a similar outfit called LIFE 890.
“Companies like Sanitation Salvage should not be doing business in this city, and BIC made the right decision to revoke their license,” Local 813 President Sean Campbell said in a statement. “For years, private carters thought no one would hold them accountable and they would get away with dangerous practices. The next step is a commercial waste-zone policy that will demand the highest standards of this industry, in which there are more companies like Sanitation Salvage. The Teamsters will be working with responsible employers to make sure that the Sanitation Salvage workers get the good jobs they deserve.”
Under the waste-zone policy, which the de Blasio administration is considering, the city would give private carters exclusive contracts to collect commercial garbage in specified zones. Done right, that would “dramatically reduce truck traffic and hold companies to high standards on safety, worker protection, and the environment from the outset,” Maritza Silva-Farrell, executive director of ALIGN, said in the Transform Don’t Trash statement.