As Durham sanitation workers' protest hits 3rd day, city turns to contractors for trash pickup

Akilah Davis Image
Friday, September 8, 2023
Day 3 of Durham sanitation workers protest, city turns to contractors
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The trash problem has gotten so bad that the city is now using contractors to fill the gaps as workers demand more pay.

DURHAM, N.C. (WTVD) -- It's two days past trash pick-up day in east Durham and Johnnie Pettiforu was just ending his call with the city.

"I was talking to Durham's One Call asking why was my trash not picked up," he questioned. "I heard there was a shortage of workers. I didn't hear there was a strike. Most cans are overflowing and stacked on top of each other."

It's the third straight day of sanitation workers walking off the job in protest. The trash problem has gotten so bad that the city is now using contractors to fill the gaps as workers demand more pay. They want temporary workers hired permanently and pay for all work outside their job title.

The demands of city sanitation workers were heard loud and clear in the heart of downtown Durham.

"Everybody is dressed. We're ready to work. If we can come to a conclusion or happy medium. We'll all go back to work," said sanitation worker George Bacote.

ABC11 obtained a group text message that was sent from a supervisor to sanitation workers that read starting today any day they don't work because of the protest will be left without pay.

Workers responded to the message requesting to use vacation time.

Sanitation worker Herman Moore told ABC11 that some can't afford to hold out much longer.

Durham sanitation workers go on strike, demand higher wages

"They got families to feed and if they feel like they won't get paid, I understand them going back," he said.

Moore has been on the job for more than 20 years and said the few who are working have been told to target certain areas first. He's seen it happen many times before.

"I can tell you they're probably picking up the more prominent residents other than urban areas," said Moore. "Those are the people they know will be calling and complaining the most."

Back on Drew Street, Pettiforu is now hoping this doesn't turn into a stinky situation.

"It's getting rough. If we don't get through the weekend, it's going to be everywhere," said Pettiforu. "The city should get the sanitation workers to pay and satisfy them."

The workers are planning to hold a solidarity rally Monday evening at City Hall Plaza at 7.

They've also started an online petition and GoFundMe to cover the salaries of those with no sick or vacation time missing work.