Sanitation workers in New Orleans, Louisiana asked for better working conditions and hazard pay due to the coronavirus pandemic. 

Waste management workers go on strike

The dispute came from a recent contract that would allow sanitation laborers to be replaced by prison workers who will be paid less than minimum wage. Dozens of workers gathered outside of Metro Service Group’s waste management headquarters in east New Orleans. The waste company was recently awarded a contract for over $10 million to collect trash in a large part of New Orleans’ city limits. Many of the workers were shown on social media displaying slogans similar to ones used during the civil rights movement of the 1960s. 

The situation is made more complex by the fact that many of these workers are employed by staffing agencies, which means that they lack traditional work protections, benefits, and bargaining agreements. They claim that the coronavirus pandemic has made their working conditions even worse, as they are risking illness and they have not received basic protective gear or been given healthcare benefits. The sanitation company said it has a large stockpile of masks and gloves, but workers say that they have only occasionally been given protective gear. 

Workers are most frustrated with these additional health risks that have not come with any kind of improvements in working conditions. Many believe it is only a matter of time before they get sick. The workers and their employer seem to be at a gridlock. Their status as workers is uncertain, as the staffing agency claims that they were terminated for striking, however the parent waste management company says that they are allowed to return to work. Labor from nearby prisons was used for several days to fill gaps in the sanitation workforce. A private company that manages these inmate labor programs usually takes up to two thirds of their pay for administrative costs. 

The workers on strike have submitted demands for $15 per hour and an additional $150 each week for hazard pay. The waste management company said that it supports their right to strike in a statement, but they will not be increasing their pay if they choose to return to work. 

Contacting an attorney to negotiate

Labor and employment law can become complex due to a number of issues at play all at once. This new report shows that the constitutional right to assemble and protest is implicated, as well as laws related to minimum wage, safe working environments, and additional benefits related to healthcare and hazard pay. Because it is not always easy to resolve these situations, a lawyer who is also a skilled negotiator should be retained to deal with an employer. 

Speak with a local labor attorney about your situation 

There are lawyers who assist workers who have been harmed by their superiors in various ways. To get immediate assistance, contact: 

Miller, Hampton, and Hilgendorf

3960 Government St., Baton Rouge, LA 70806