New York, NY – After a decade trying, the sponsor of a new effort to limit the concentration of city trash being disproportionately processed through communities of color, this week, saluted Teamsters Joint Council 16 for being instrumental in finally getting the measure okayed in the City Council.
“These folks have been fighting for workers and worker protection, and worker safety long before this was a hot issue,” City Council Member Antonio Reynoso [D-34th District] said before voting on Intro. 157— the Waste Equity Bill on Wednesday afternoon. “Today, we have A little glimpse of hope that in the future, we’re finally going to be a city that is gong to be representative of what we believe — which is that everybody deserves dignity in the workplace.”
An astonishing 70-percent of the city’s trash is processed inside just three communities of color located in Southeastern Queens, North Brooklyn and the South Bronx. Intro. 157 — the Waste Equity Bill — seeks to spread the burden more equitably across the city.
When the final vote was tallied, members of the City Council approved the measure 32-13.
“I grew up in the South Bronx — it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out why most of those trash facilities were put in Black and Latino communities,” Miranda said from the steps of City Hall. “It’s not okay that Black and Latino kids are more likely to get asthma. It’s not okay that our kids have to cross streets with dangerous traffic on their way to school. It’s simply just not okay. And we don’t have to choose between clean air and good jobs.”
I grew up in the South Bronx — it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out why most of those trash facilities were put in Black and Latino communities — Teamsters Joint Council 16 President George Miranda.
Council Member Donovan Richards [D-31st District] represents constituents grappling with inordinate amounts of city trash being pumped into their communities in Southeastern Queens.
“Every time we look to address inequities in our communities, we have corporate interests who always come up with what is going to be a loss of jobs,” the council member said. “We know that’s not going to be a case here, and we know we are correcting the wrongs that have been happening in our communities for far too long.”
Teamsters represent thousands of sanitation workers, both public and private, throughout the city.
Last year, workers at the Sims Municipal Recycling plant in Brooklyn organized with Teamsters Local 210 and ratified their first-ever union contract. The three-year pact, approved by 91% of the voters, gave them immediate raises and a union health-care plan with all premiums paid by the company.
“We are showing the way towards cleaning up the environment, while at the same time, we’re fighting for good jobs for workers,” Miranda said this week. “We urge City Council members to vote yes on the Waste Equity Bill, and make environmental justice the law of the land in New York City.”
Advocates for the Waste Equity Bill also see the measure as the first step in cleaning up a private sanitation industry that routinely harms the lives of its non-union workers with shoddy equipment and paltry wages.
“We will make the next step later this summer with commercial waste zones to protect the workers and the environment,” Miranda added.
Eddie Bautista, head of the New York City Environmental Justice Alliance, referenced Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and the arc of the moral universe “bending towards justice” in talking about the long fight to finally get the Waste Equity Bill approved.
“As long as this fight took, we know we have that much more to accomplish,” Bautista said. “First step is waste equity. The next is waste zoning. We have just begun to fight people. Stay tuned.”
With the passage of Intro. 157, Council Member Reynoso, chair of the Committee on Sanitation and Solid Waste Management, said that the City of New York is striking back at environmental racism, while also protecting good actors operating inside the waste management industry.
“We want to encourage good business that are actually supporting workers, paying attention to safety, understanding regulations related to pollution,” Council Member Reynoso said. “That’s the type of company we want.”