Queens District Attorney candidate Councilman Rory Lancman (D-Hillcrest) and Councilman Antonio Reynoso (D-Brooklyn, Ridgewood) were at the Teamsters Local 813 headquarters in Long Island City on Tuesday to put sham unions in the private carting industry as well as the employers of those firms on notice.
For years, sanitation workers who dispose of garbage in the private carting industry have been subject to labor violations and unsafe working conditions, according to Sean Campbell, president and principal officer at Teamsters Local 813, a union for the private sanitation and funeral industry.
“Of all the industries in New York City, none is rife with abuse of its working people than the private carting industry,” said Lancman. “It has been documented for many years for wage theft, workplace safety violations, the denial of the rights to organize and even more insidiously, the manipulation of workers rights to organize which is prevalent in this industry.”
As the district attorney, Lancman wants to help protect workers from facing harmful conditions again.
“It is time that we have a district attorney in Queens that is going to partner with working people, partner with law enforcement agencies, including the city’s Business Integrity Commission and make sure that this industry works for the people.”
Less than two weeks ago, employees were found not wearing proper gear, according to Campbell.
“People are not given the proper protective equipment to wear on a daily basis,” said Campbell. “We were out on the street at night, and we were taking some people around and we wanted to show them some of the things that were happening in this industry. The first truck we ran into had an individual in sneakers and rubber gloves that you would find in a doctor’s office. What is that going to protect? Nothing!”
Proper gear should include safety boots, long pants, a reflective vest and canvas or leather gloves in case there are needles or sharp objects in the waste, according to Campbell.
“What do most people do,” said Campbell. “They throw anything and everything in the trash. People are stuck on a regular basis. Having a rubber glove on is not going to protect anything.”
Lancman also wants to protect the workers from the “sham” unions that work in conjunction with the employers who set up the bad working environment in the first place.
“This is industry is plagued by a fake union who steals the dreams and hopes of working people who think they have organized and have the power to collectively bargain, but in fact have that right stolen from them,” said Lancman. “This industry regularly sends working people to the hospital or to the grave.”
The men and women who work in this industry are putting in 12 to 18 hours of the day on the job without a minimum wage, according to Lancman.
“When it comes to this industry, we want to make sure it is dignified work [and] that people are paid for a good day’s work,” said Reynoso, the chair of the Sanitation Committee on the City Council. “I believe the work that we have done over the last five years is going to be exponentially increased I guess when it comes to the work that can happen in the DA’s office.”
Both Teamsters Local 813 and Reynoso have endorsed Lancman.
“I’ve endorsed Rory Lancman already because of the work that he has done related to police reform and other issues that I have been fighting for in the City Council,” said Reynoso. “The work he would do in the private carting industry is just icing on the cake for me and why I feel even more convicted now than before to make sure Rory Lancman is our next DA.”
The primary for the Queens County District Attorney’s Office is June 25.