As the country comes together to support and provide for essential workers, there is an overlooked group of frontline workers no one talking about — our sanitation workers.
Terrill Haigler aka @_yafavtrashman, a Philadelphia sanitation worker, is speaking up and bringing awareness to the hardships he and his colleagues face as garbage collectors during the pandemic.
“I just want to bring awareness to the fact that we are left out of the top when it comes to being essential,” Haigler told NPR’s Whyy.
Seven months ago when Haigler took the job with Philadelphia’s city Sanitation Division, he was met with the unforeseen physical demands of the job.
“This has been one of the hardest jobs I’ve ever done in my life, consistently,” Haigler said.
Haigler and colleagues’ 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. shifts sometimes extend 14 consecutive days in harsh environments.
“It’s just the beat that your body takes, the mental, the emotions, the elements you deal with, the rain… And, you know, sometimes you gotta deal with the public who aren’t happy with their trash and everything,” he said.
NPR reports PPE given to Haigler and other Philly sanitation workers is not appropriate for the job at hand. Large plastic face shields make it hard to perform job duties and puncturable gloves do not protect against needles or other sharp objects.
Although Haigler is speaking out about his challenges, he’s doing more than talking. He started a t-shirt fundraiser to purchase N95 masks, gloves, and cleaning supplies.
According to NPR, the city of Philadelphia is experiencing excessive delays in trash pick-up leaving sidewalks crowded with garbage and creating an inviting environment for rodents. It is unclear who or what is responsible for delays in trash pickup.
The city’s mayor, Jim Kenney, cites the weather as the cause for delays, but Streets Commissioner Carlton Williams says a decreased workforce caused by the pandemic is to blame.
“So, you know, I really don’t get it whose fault it is — I just deal with how can we come together, get what we need, and keep the city in a constant flow of picking the trash up,” said Haigler.
Haigler understands the frustration of the city’s residents but wants the city to know he and his colleagues are doing their best and a little support would be appreciated.
“Then maybe when they come outside, instead of, you know, being upset and frustrated, they can just say ‘thank you,’ ‘here’s a water,’ ‘we appreciate you,’ ‘is there anything else I could do?” he said.
Click here here to learn more about the campaign.