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As the city denies commands for combining trash and recycling, sanitation workers report not being paid accurately for overtime.
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As the city denies commands for combining trash and recycling, sanitation workers report not being paid accurately for overtime.

Problems continue to pile up for the delayed trash pickups. Philadelphia sanitation workers state they’re not being paid the proper amount for overtime and some workers aren’t showing up due to the discrepancy.

The city released another sanitation advisory the week of August 24th, asking residents to set out the materials on their regular day but “expect collection delay throughout the week.”

Sanitation workers are clocking in overtime, sometimes seventeen or eighteen days straight. And not being paid properly for it.

Philly changed over its “One Philly” payroll system in early 2019 with problems of incorrect amounts, as the Philadelphia Inquirer reported. According to the local sanitation workers union, One Philly is still plaguing sanitation workers.

Charles Carrington, the President of Local 427, (the union representing the sanitation workers) estimates that he gets 15-20 calls each payday with inaccuracies, and an additional five to ten complaints each week.

As Carrington explains, the typical excitement of payday has instead turned into a headache. “We hate it when pay day come around. Our phones start ringing at 5 o’clock in the morning, with calls ‘I didn’t get my pay. I didn’t get all my pay. My pay is incorrect.'”

“But you think the least they can do is to make sure these people were properly paid. No, that’s not happening.”

Charles Carrington

Sanitation workers are responsible for the burden of proof to show that they worked overtime hours. Carrington recommends that sanitation workers keep a calendar to document days and hours worked, who they worked with, truck number, and name of the shift leader in case the city needs to corroborate the dispute.

According to Carrington, when workers have discrepancies in pay, he has to report the information to the city, which does not correct the difference until the next paycheck. And sometimes workers still don’t get the proper amount on the next paycheck, or the following. Since the workers are still working overtime, the problem snowballs.

“They give us this, like, you know, ‘we want people to be properly compensated for their work.’ Understood. But I mean, come on now, what’s their response,” said Carrington.

According to Carrington, “the city is mandating our employees to stay at work, mandatory overtime. That’s in the contract. That’s understandable. But you think the least they can do is to make sure these people were properly paid. No, that’s not happening. That’s not happening.”

So what does the city say is happening?

According to a Streets spokesperson via email, “We find that most of reported overtime pay discrepancies are as a result of employees mis-reading their pay stubs or they simply did not earn overtime during the pay period as per collective bargaining rules and civil service regulations.  With more than 1,880 employees, there are instances where a few employees do not receive all of their overtime for a variety of reasons, but, when this occurs, we generally make sure they obtain any amount due the following pay period.”

Carrington claims that the city’s explanation is ‘100% false.’ “There are four to five employees who read their pay stub incorrectly.” 

In addition to pay problems, sanitation workers have been filling in the gaps for insufficient supplies that the city has provided. One Home Depot from King of Prussia donated 3000 masks and hand sanitizer. Another sanitation worker, Terrill Haigler, raised over $31,000 and sold 2000 t-shirts for PPE and cleaning supplies for workers.

Recycling and Trash Being Combined without End in Sight

Trash and recycling have been combined into the same trucks, as reported across many Philadelphia neighborhoods.

Mayor Jim Kenney called these incidents “anecdotes” and not widespread when asked during last week’s press conference.

As Mayor Kenney said, “these anecdotal issues of trash being combined into recycling, I don’t doubt that it’s happening. But, if we have an idea where that’s happening, we can put an end to it or at least reeducate the workers/employee not to do that. I don’t think it’s happening widespread. But a lot of this is anecdotal and we will try to respond to the anecdotes as best as possible.

However, Green Philly readers have reported seeing firsthand trash and recycling being combined in Roxborough, Fishtown, Kensington, Hartranft, South Kensington, Passyunk Square, East Passyunk, Bella Vista, Queen Village, Point Breeze, Francisville, Washington Square West, Graduate Hospital, Cedar Park, Walnut Hill, Olde Richmond, Mount Airy, Girard Estates, Germantown, Alleghany West, and Fairmount over the past week.

The city has blamed wet weather events for combining recycling and trash. However, as we previously reported, it’s up to the city’s recycling contractor, Waste Management to determine if recycling is contaminated, not sanitation workers.

“I’ve been with the city for 27 years, and when it rained, we still service recycling and put it into recycling trucks,” said Carrington.

When asked what percentage of trash and recycling is being contaminated, the city did not share numbers. Instead, Kelly Cofranscisco commented in an email, “these are decisions made each day based on weather, attendance, what is still on the curb for pick up, and other factors so it’s not a stat we track, rather is something we endeavor to mitigate.”

According to Carrington, sanitation workers are disciplined to avoid combining trash and recycling under ordinary circumstances. If they contaminate recycling, Workers are penalized with an automatic three days suspension, which is referred to as “trashing the load.”

Another conundrum of the city’s shift in communication includes tactics to push citizens to properly recycle. In the past, the city has issued citations for city residents because they didn’t properly recycle. “Are you going to send them back the money?” asked Carrington.

Carrington has received phone calls every day for the past 1 1/2 to two months from sanitation workers to tell him that they’re being instructed to combine trash and recycling.

So who’s instructing the workers to combine the trash and recycling?

According to Carrington, sanitation workers and their supervisors can’t make the call to combine trash and recycling. Although they won’t say specifically who gives the orders, and it must come from ‘above them’.

So what can concerned citizens do about their trash?

For now, just put out your trash and be patient. “They going to get it,” said Carrington.


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Julie Hancher
Julie Hancher is Editor-in-Chief of Green Philly, sharing her expertise of all things sustainable in the city of brotherly love. She enjoys long walks in the park with local beer and greening her travels, cooking & cat, Sir Floofus Drake. View all posts by Julie Hancher

4 thoughts on “As the city denies commands for combining trash and recycling, sanitation workers report not being paid accurately for overtime.

  1. Carrington does not know what he is talking about, or not being truthful. Yesterday was the third time in a month that workers “trashed the load” on my block. I was an eyewitness all three times. I reported it after the first 2 times to 311 on-line. I got a response saying the problem was corrected. This 3rd time, I pulled my blue bin off the curb as I am mid-block and saw in advance of their arrival to my house that they were dumping both recycling and trash in the same truck. What to do now?
    Claudia Crane
    2335 Perot
    claudia@claudiacrane.com

  2. I observed sanitation workers loading blue bins’ contents and trash can contents into the same trucks on 2 occasion in the past month. This was on the 7400 block of Boyer St in E. Mt Airy. On a single day between these 2 times, I saw 2 different trucks pass along our block, picking up trash in one truck, recyclables in another.
    When questioned, one worker said sometimes they’re told to do combined pick-up and sometimes told to keep them separate.
    I took photos of the 2nd time combining was done and would happily share, but couldn’t succeed in copying one into this comment area.

  3. This is great reporting, thanks! Just to add that just this week our trash and recycling was combined yet again into one truck in the East Passyunk area on Wharton St. Very frustrating to say the least! Glad to see this being covered. Also a big thanks to the sanitation workers who are working around the clock, hopefully this all gets straightened out soon!
    – Alex

  4. Trash and recycling thrown into same truck for at least the past FOUR weeks in the far Northeast & on my block 1100 Hedgerow Lane 19115. Very upsetting!
    -Joan M.

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