By Peter Cherry
Weeks after sanitation workers staged a walkout not sanctioned by their union for hazard pay and greater health protections, Mayor Bill Peduto’s office announced that a sanitation worker with Pittsburgh’s Department of Public Works had died from COVID-19.
Sanitation workers have a life expectancy of 54 years compared to 67 for the general population. Refuse and recycling workers consistently have one of the highest rates of on the job fatalities, a fact that is exacerbated by the current economic crisis and mismanagement of the coronavirus by the politicians and stockbrokers who are aggravating the already failing health care system. This is what ultimately led to the walkout by sanitation workers.
Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto offered condolences, saying, “…The pandemic may be global but it’s still hitting us close to home.” Despite his words, Peduto only pays sanitation workers $11-13 an hour on average, unable to cover the costs of housing and food in a city that is rapidly becoming more expensive for working class residents. The city government has denied culpability for the worker’s death, claiming that the coronavirus was not contracted while on the job.
Black ribbon decals are being placed on garbage and recycling trucks to honor the worker. There is no word yet for how the union, which did not authorize of the walkout that happened two weeks ago, will respond.