|Charleston's Dirty Little Secret|
(The following is from the Charleston sanitation workers organizing brochure)
Why visit a historic plantation when you can visit a working one?
Charleston's Dirty Little Secret
While thousands of tourists pour into our city every day to admire the historic mansions, shop at King Street boutiques, and dine at world class restaurants, 120 sanitation workers keep visitors and residents clean and safe in the face of constant abuse from supervisors and dangerous conditions.
Dozens of sanitation workers have been injured on the job as they labor under intense pressure to cover expanding routes with shrinking crews and outdated equipment.
A driver knocked unconscious by a tree branch that fell on her cab was rushed to MUSC and then hurried back to work a few days later by supervisors who ignored doctors' orders to keep her off the truck until she had healed.
Sick and injured workers are forced back to work before they are healthy.
A confusing wage and seniority structure leaves workers unsure of their pay and promotion rights. This leads to all sorts of abuses of the system.
Some workers are even forced to compete for promotions by engaging in cut-throat challenges straight out of reality TV programs. Others are forced to work overtime and paid at their regular rate.
But sanitation workers' issues ARE NOT PRIMARILY ECONOMIC. They are issues of fairness, human dignity, and often, survival. And, they are an embarrassment to our good city.
Your right to join a union!
The vast majority of the sanitation workers have joined Local 1199, a labor union that can make sure employees are treated fairly and with respect.
Many government workers in the South, however, think that they are prohibited from joining unions. THIS IS FALSE!
State law prohibits public sector workers from formally negotiating labor contracts, but the courts have consistently protected workers' rights to "meet and confer" with government officials to make sure that their concerns are addressed and that they are treated fairly.
Common questions about unions:
What can a union do in a right-to-work state?
Employers make changes when they are forced to make changes. As long as the City believes they can fix problems by getting rid of a few "troublemakers," sanitation workers will continue to work under dangerous conditions.
Why do sanitation workers need a union?
Every group of employees has representative bodies that advocate on their behalf. Firefighters, lawyers, doctors, and teachers all have organizations and associations to advocate for them. Public sector workers, including sanitation workers, are no different.
Many people forget that when Martin Luther King, Jr. was murdered in Memphis, he was protesting for the rights of sanitation workers to join a labor union - the same national union Charleston workers have joined today!
What is Local 1199?
This union has a 40-year history in Charleston dating to the 1969 hospital workers strike when 500 women at MUSC and the County hospital carried out a successful 4-month strike for pay raises and union recognition.
Why would the City agree to work with 1199?
The City Council was asked in 2003 to recognize a union for sanitation workers. They buried the proposal in their legal department. But City officials now understand that we cannot afford another Sofa Superstore tragedy. That failure was rooted in the City's refusal to listen to the firefighters' longstanding grievances.
In the words of 1199 members:
"I've got children and grandchildren who will come up behind me. They don't need to face what I've had to face. I could not do that to them."
"My raise and my life can't be based on the mood of my supervisor. We need a structure that only a union can provide."
"Confusion in the sanitation department helps no one - not the workers, the customers, or the City."
JOIN LOCAL 1199 AND THE CHARLESTON SANITATION WORKERS' MOVEMENT
IT'S ABOUT DIGNITY!
To join Local 1199 or for more information, please contact 843-805-9697 or visit our office at 1109 King Street (the Chronicle Building).
The Charleston Sanitation Workers' Movement
AFSCME Local 1199
If you live in Charleston, sign the petition.
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