Two private sanitation workers fired last Friday for testifying before the City Council’s Sanitation Committee got their jobs back Monday morning thanks to community and labor pressure on the company that let them go.
City Councilman Antonio Reynoso, who is the Sanitation Committee chair, held a press conference this morning in front of Five Star Carting’s location on Thames Street in Brooklyn in support of Michael Bush and Carlton Darden, the fired workers.
The conference was to have taken place in front of Five Star’s location on 47th Street in west Maspeth, but was moved to Brooklyn after the company organized a counteractive rally among its own supporters.
During a City Council hearing held last Wednesday, Darden and Bush testified about the problems in their industry, from low wages for long hours to dangerous working conditions. Both were subsequently given their notice by Five Star for speaking out against the company.
Federal labor law protects workers from retaliation for speaking publicly about their working conditions.
“These workers never deserved to be fired for speaking out—it was both illegal and unacceptable—so I am glad they are back to work,” Reynoso said. “It really speaks to the fact that the commercial waste industry desperately needs to be reformed. I am proud to join with the brave sanitation workers and to stand up for good jobs, worker protections and the right to free speech.”
Representatives from local labor unions joined the lawmaker in supporting Bush and Darden.
“New Yorkers have learned two things this week: Five Star Carting does not respect its workers or their free speech rights, but also that when workers, community members and elected officials stand together, we win,” said Sean Campbell, president of Teamsters Local 813. “The campaign for justice for sanitation workers is not over. From Maspeth to City Hall, we will keep fighting for good wages, worker safety and a clean environment.”
Allan Henry, an organizer for the Teamsters, said that after speaking out against Five Star Carting and their working conditions, Bush and Darden were told to sign papers deeming them terminated before they could receive their paychecks.
“Now they both have their jobs back, but this is the type of working conditions and the type of retaliation these workers are dealing in this industry,” Henry said.
Anthony Tristani, president of Five Star Carting, claimed that Bush and Darden were never fired from the company.
“Neither one was ever terminated,” he said in a phone interview. “Michael Bush was scheduled to come in yesterday.”
Tristani said that after the rally, Bush came into the Maspeth location and asked to use a sick day to cover the shift that he missed, which he was granted. Darden is scheduled to work tonight.