Tag Archives: New York

Trashed: Inside the Deadly World of Private Garbage Collection

Source: Kiera Feldman, ProPublica, January 4, 2018
 
Shortly before 5 a.m. on a recent November night, a garbage truck with a New York Yankees decal on the side sped through a red light on an empty street in the Bronx. The two workers aboard were running late. Before long, they would start getting calls from their boss. “Where are you on the route? Hurry up, it shouldn’t take this long.” Theirs was one of 133 garbage trucks owned by Action Carting, the largest waste company in New York City, which picks up the garbage and recycling from 16,700 businesses.  Going 20 miles per hour above the city’s 25 mph limit, the Action truck ran another red light with a worker, called a “helper,” hanging off the back. Just a few miles away the week before, another man had died in the middle of the night beneath the wheels of another company’s garbage truck. … In the universe of New York’s garbage industry, Action is considered a company that takes the high road. A union shop, it offers starting pay of about $16 per hour for helpers and $23 for drivers, far more than many other companies. And unlike some other companies, Action provides high-visibility gear and conducts safety meetings. But since 2008, the company’s trucks have killed five pedestrians or cyclists.  In New York City overall, private sanitation trucks killed seven people in 2017. By contrast, city municipal sanitation trucks haven’t caused a fatality since 2014. …

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Commercial trash workers testify against conditions
Source: David Giambusso, Capital New York, April 30, 2015

During a City Council debate Wednesday over free enterprise and recycling diversion rates in New York’s private carting industry, members of the sanitation committee heard from a group of stakeholders who rarely voice concerns about the industry publicly: workers in the private trash trade. “When you only earn minimum wage and are working 60 hours a week in the bitter cold snow and ice—I feel like I am being taken advantage of,” said Carlton Darden, who works for the private hauler Five Star Carting, in testimony to the Council. “I feel as if I’m a slave,” testified Michael Bush, another Five Star employee. “I feel used and degraded. I feel as if I’m nobody, but this job is a real responsibility to keep the streets of New York City clean.” Juan Feliz testified that he was fired from Mr. T Carting after contracting cancer—a condition he attributes to chemicals and debris he was exposed to on the job….. Workers testified that they can make 300 stops a night throughout the city during 16-hour shifts, leading to poor recycling rates and safety hazards for residents and workers alike. They said some companies pay workers as little as $8.75 an hour to pick up 20,000 pounds of trash per night, per worker. Workers are expected to provide their own gloves, boots and reflective gear and receive little or no training at some companies, the men testified. …

High-Class Trash /Why it costs so much to haul garbage in New York—at least when the Department of Sanitation is doing it
Source: Matthew Hennessey, City Journal, 15 July 2014 [editor’s note: City Journal is published by the Manhattan Institute]

….Less often thought of as a uniformed workforce, however, are the Big Apple’s 7,200 sanitation workers, who have been without a contract since 2011. The last contract negotiated by the Uniformed Sanitationmen’s Association Local 831 resulted in a 17 percent raise over 54 months for workers. But according to a May report by the nonprofit Citizens Budget Commission (CBC), the bill for collecting and disposing of New York’s trash is already much higher than in other large American cities. Can Gotham really afford to pay more?

With a population of 8.3 million and the second-largest urban economy in the world, New York City produces lots of garbage—about 8 million tons annually—but the city’s Department of Sanitation (DSNY) is responsible for hauling only half of it. The rest is handled by roughly 250 private hauling firms, which contract with local businesses to remove commercial waste. The CBC calculates that the sanitation department spends $431 per ton to collect and dispose of garbage, while the city’s private haulers do it for just $183 per ton. How do private waste-hauling firms, which are both unionized and heavily regulated, manage to pick up and dispose of trash so much more efficiently than the sanitation department?

For starters, the private firms do a better job on the disposal side than the city does. The DSNY sends just 14 percent of the waste it collects to recycling plants, which pay for the materials they receive—up to $25 per ton for paper recyclables, depending on market variations—with most of the rest going to landfills (a small amount gets converted into energy). Private haulers, by contrast, send 63 percent of what they collect to recycling plants, lowering their disposal costs considerably.

The real difference between the public- and private-sector trash haulers, however, shows up on the collection side—specifically, how much those who do the collecting get paid. City sanitation workers benefit from incentives such as “productivity” bonuses and shift-differential payments, which are rarely offered to their counterparts in the private workforce, and they get substantially more paid days off, including unlimited sick days, the CBC report found. The benefits add up. In 2012, the average DSNY employee earned 39 percent more than the average worker at a private trash-hauling firm in the city. Total compensation for a first-year DSNY employee—including overtime, holiday pay, health insurance, and retirement benefits—tops out at over $100,000. A city sanitation worker with more than 20 years on the job earns almost $170,000 in total compensation. The DSNY’s highest-paid employee in 2013 took home $219,233, more even than then-commissioner John Doherty…..

CSEA plans for winter storm, warmer contract talk

Source: Rikki N. Massand, Garden City News, January 4, 2018 

The time of year when municipal operations including salt spreading and snow cleanup to landscaping come into focus is upon Garden City, amidst a labor negotiations standstill between the civil service employee union and the village that is now pushing five full years. … Robert LoDolce, president of the CSEA Rank & File Unit Local 882 (Garden City) unit spoke with the News a day before the snowfall. … He stated that employees who may have decades of experience in the Village of Garden City have built up a vested interest and commitment to their jobs and municipal operations, while outside contractors are operating on their individual business needs and budgets.  The CSEA Local 882 Rank & File has worked without a contract with the village since 2012 and LoDolce says the workforce diligently carries out all their responsibilities in Garden City. … This week he advised that due to allocation of the workforce related to subcontractors the village has brought in, the CSEA has filed an improper labor practice claim that will be heard in 2018 by P.E.R.B., the Public Employees Relations Board “regarding the outsourcing of bargaining units’ type of work to private contractor. He specifically refers to the contract for Con-Kel Landscaping that has been bid recently by the Village of Garden City after their initial year of work, and the scope of work is set to expand from 91 acres of passive greenspace areas (village parcels) to 114 municipal acres. …

New York’s prevailing wage law: A cost-benefit analysis

Source: Russell Ormiston, Dale Belman, and Matt Hinkel, Economic Policy Institute, November 1, 2017

… State prevailing wage laws across the country have increasingly been assailed by those who appeal to lawmakers’ other responsibility—minimizing taxpayer costs—in an attempt to weaken or repeal these policies. These nationwide campaigns are built almost entirely upon a single argument: higher wages must equate to higher taxpayer costs. … And with a recent publication by the Empire Center (McMahon and Gardner 2017), it has become apparent that some in New York will attempt to pitch the same narrative to state lawmakers. There’s one problem. According to the most advanced economic research on state prevailing wage laws, the simple narrative largely isn’t true.

To separate fact from fiction as it relates to New York’s prevailing wage law, this report provides a thorough cost-benefit analysis of state policy relying extensively on independent, peer-reviewed research. As summarized in this report, academic economists from around the country have made prevailing wage laws a research priority over the last 15 years. In study after study, economists have found no evidence that these laws have had any significant cost effects on the biggest drivers of New York’s capital budget: highways and institutional buildings (e.g., schools). …

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Financial Woes Continue For Massena Hospital

Source: WWNYtv, November 20, 2017
 
Massena Memorial Hospital continues to rack up financial losses as it moves toward a potential privatization next year.  The hospital had an almost $880,000 loss from operations in October, compared to an almost $150,000 gain in October 2016. So far this year the hospital has a loss from operations of nearly $3 million.  Hospital executives attributed the losses to a number of factors. Two big ones were increased pension and health insurance costs. They are growing increasingly frustrated with higher pension costs. … The hospital’s merger talks with other hospitals are basically on hold until a transfer agreement can be worked out with the town, Wolleben said. …

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Incumbent Massena Town Supervisor issues last-minute debate challenge to Democratic opponent
Source: Abraham Kenmore, Watertown Daily Times, November 4, 2017
 
Town Supervisor Joseph D. Gray issued a challenge late Thursday to his opponent for a debate, four days before the election. In an interview with the Times on Thursday, Mr. Gray, the Republican incumbent, said he was challenging his Democratic opponent, Councilman Steven D. O’Shau­ghnessy, to a debate tonight in the Town Hall. He then issued a press release late Thursday night specifying that he had reserved Room 30 for 7 p.m. at the Town Hall to take community questions. … Mr. Gray has accused Mr. O’Shaughnessy of striking a deal to keep the hospital under town control in exchange for the endorsement of the Civil Service Employees Association Local 887, which represents over 200 workers at the Massena Memorial Hospital and opposes privatization. Mr. O’Shaughnessy has denied any such deal, and said Mr. Gray raised similar accusations that council members with state pensions would be under the control of Albany. …

Gray accuses O’Shaughnessy of opposing hospital privatization
Source:Abraham Kenmore, Watertown Daily Times, November 3, 2017
 
Town Supervisor Joseph D. Gray issued a news release Monday questioning the endorsement of councilman Steven D. O’Shau­ghnessy, his Democratic opponent, by Civil Service Employees Association Local 887, which represents over 200 workers at the Massena Memorial Hospital. The CSEA has organized protests against the privatization of the hospital, which Mr. Gray says is necessary to keep the debt-ridden hospital open. …

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Commission blames ex-medical provider for 3 inmate deaths at Nassau jail

Source: News12 Long Island, September 18, 2017

The former health provider at the Nassau County Jail is blamed in connection with the deaths of three inmates in three scathing new state reports on each of the deaths. The state Commission of Correction detailed its findings on Armor Correctional Health Facilities in the three reports. The commission found Armor “incapable of providing competent medical care, alleged “gross incompetence” by a doctor, and uncovered a continued “failure and unwillingness” to address the problems. The state agency says Armor’s lack of adequate health care was directly responsible for the deaths of 63-year-old William Satchell, 20-year-old Emanuel McElveen and 62-year-old Michael Cullum. …

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Records: Nassau knew of Armor lawsuits before approving contract
Source: Paul LaRocco, NewsDay, July 23, 2016 (Abstract)

Nassau lawmakers were presented with allegations of poor care by the county’s embattled private jail medical provider before they approved its initial contract five years ago, records show. The county legislature’s Republican-controlled Rules Committee in April 2011 voted along party lines to approve a two-year, $22 million agreement with Armor Correctional Health Services — despite concerns…

NIFA report suggests eliminating crossing guards, closing Marine Bureau

Source: News 12 Long Island, August 31, 2017
 
A new report by the Nassau Interim Finance Authority (NIFA) suggests the county should eliminate crossing guards, privatize ambulance services and close its Marine Bureau in an effort to close a $54 million deficit.   CSEA President Jerry Larrichuita says he’s outraged by language in the report that suggests many of the proposed cuts would not have an impact on county services.  “I think they should stick to banking, which is their job, and stay out of government operations,” says Larrichuita. …

State workers to return to help desk jobs that had been outsourced

Source: Rick Karlin, Times Union, July 21, 2017
 
Less than a year after it started, the state Office for Information Technology Services is backing away from the outsourcing of its help desk, and will be once again have state workers assume many of those responsibilities. Soon after it began last fall, representatives of numerous state agencies complained they couldn’t get through to the newly privatized help desks, which were based in Buffalo but were backed up in Boulder, Colo. There had also been worries about the cost of the outsourcing. …  The agency said it will continue to work with its main outsourcing contractor, IBM, but state employees will provide on-site assistance at the various state agencies. The process will begin this month in the Capital Region. …

School board rejects plan to privatize food services

Source: Christina Daly, Long Beach Herald, July 13, 2017

The Long Beach Board of Education voted 3-2 to reject a plan to privatize the school district’s lunch program that administrators said would have saved hundreds of thousands of dollars. At a contentious July 6 meeting, the board rejected a bid by Chartwells, a food- service company, to take over the district’s food operations and help fill a budget gap. School officials said the district lost about $400,000 in food services in each of the past two years due to a lack of student participation in the federally funded National School Lunch Program, which partially reimburses the district for lunches that the agency considers healthy. …

Authorization To Fix The Crumbling BQE Faster Stalls In Albany

Source: Emma Whitford, Gothamist, July 12, 2017
 
Legislation that the Department of Transportation predicted could shave years and millions of dollars off of critical Brooklyn Queens Expressway repairs floundered in Albany this session, to the frustration of local politicians, policy groups, labor unions, pro-business groups, and residents who live alongside the decaying BQE triple cantilever in Brooklyn Heights. … There is a basic resistance in Albany, and upstate generally, to what is considered privatization of the state contracting process,” she added. “The main opposition comes from public service unions that are concerned about their jobs somehow disappearing or being diminished.” (“We wanted to ensure that men and women in the state workforce, who are perfectly trained and qualified to do the work, didn’t lose their jobs because of design build outsourcing,” stated Emily Cote, director of communications for the Civil Service Employees Association.) …

Lawmakers Question Trump’s Stake in Subsidized Housing Complex

Source: Yamiche Alcindor, New York Times, July 10, 2017
 
Two congressional Democrats are demanding more information about President Trump’s potential conflicts of interest stemming from his part ownership of the nation’s largest federally subsidized housing complex, which they say could benefit financially from decisions made by the Department of Housing and Urban Development. … Mr. Trump stands to make millions from his 4 percent stake in Starrett City, a sprawling affordable housing complex in Brooklyn, according to a 10-page letter written by Representative Elijah E. Cummings of Maryland, the House Oversight Committee’s top Democrat, and Representative Hakeem Jeffries of New York, whose district includes the complex. … The men added that they also worry that Mr. Trump’s proposed budget would make steep cuts to many housing programs but “would leave the type of federal aid that flows to the owners of Starrett City mostly intact.” … Mr. Cummings and Mr. Jeffries are also concerned about the appointment of Lynne Patton, a longtime Trump family associate, to lead the department’s New York and New Jersey office.