CSEA members and City of Auburn Laborers Dallas Johnson and Marcus Babb ride on the back of a recycling truck driven by their co-worker Jeramy Hutson. Above, Dallas Johnson rides on the back of the truck.
CSEA members and City of Auburn Laborers Dallas Johnson and Marcus Babb ride on the back of a recycling truck driven by their
co-worker Jeramy Hutson.
Above, Dallas Johnson rides on the back of the truck.

AUBURN — Workers who pick up refuse and recycling say they often feel “invisible,” which might help explain why their work can be among the most deadly industries across the nation.

Add to that a general disrespect for the work they do by the motoring public and the everyday dangers of distracted driving, and it’s a recipe for impending disaster.

In the City of Auburn, refuse and recycling workers admit they’ve had too many close calls to count.

“People just don’t care — they tend to blow right by us. They can’t wait. Every time we turn around, there’s a car in our face,” said Marcus Babb, a CSEA member employed by the city as a laborer.

Labor Foreman and CSEA City of Auburn Unit Vice President Eric Lepak said that people look down upon garbage and recycling collectors, which also puts the workers at risk. “It’s just the disrespect of the job itself, and it puts everyone at a liability,” he said.

“They like to fly by us,” said Dallas Johnson, a laborer.

So far, none of the city’s workers have actually been hit, and we want to make sure that continues. That’s why CSEA has started a public “Slow Down To Get Around” campaign to raise awareness of the hazards of refuse and recycling collection.

The campaign is about building awareness for caution among CSEA members and the public through a media campaign stressing the risks sanitation workers face. Meanwhile, Jeramy Hutson, a CSEA member and motor equipment operator at the city, continues to watch out from the cab of his truck for his refuse/recycling collectors on the street while he’s driving. They use an “early warning” system where if he sees a car coming too fast; he will quickly tap the truck’s air brakes to signal the collectors to be on guard.

“People pass garbage trucks all the time and not slowly, either,” Hutson said. “I’ve had a lot of close calls. A lot of texting, a lot of cell phones, a lot of distracted driving. You just have to keep your head on a swivel, and keep your eyes moving.”

— Mark M. Kotzin

For more information visit cseany.org/sanitation

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Mark Kotzin has been passionately advocating on behalf of workers for more than 29 years, previously as the communications specialist in our union's Central Region, and currently as CSEA's statewide Director of Communications.

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