Residents frustrated as sanitation workers, city officials meet with arbitrator

Trash continued to pile up Tuesday for some Memphis residents.
Trash continued to pile up Tuesday for some Memphis residents.

By Lori Brown - bio | email

MEMPHIS, TN (WMC-TV) - Trash continued to pile up Tuesday for some Memphis residents as a dispute between the City of Memphis and sanitation workers continued.

"Nobody showed up," Central Gardens resident Melanie Gutierrez said. "We're not really sure when it's coming through. We don't know if it's being picked up or not. The recycling came through this morning, but we're still looking at Christmas trees."

Gutierrez is one of many in the Central Gardens Historical District who are fed up.

"We have a little one, so we have diapers and all sorts of wonderful things piling up," she said.

Friday, according to city officials, over a third of Memphis's trash collectors went home instead heading into the bitter cold.

The sanitation workers, who are members of AFSCME, cited a union agreement which states, "In temperatures of fifteen degrees Fahrenheit and under, employees who reported on schedule shall be assigned a minimum four hours of work inside or be excused from duty, with four hours pay..."

Memphis Public Works Director Dwan Gilliom cited the same agreement for why he says the employees should have worked.  The agreement goes on to say quote, "except in cases of emergency or when required to maintain or restore service to citizens."

"What would happen in the city if you had four to five days with temperatures 15 degrees or lower?" Gilliom asked in an Action News 5 story on Monday.

The squabble has frustrated residents like John Volmer, who finally put his trash cans away Tuesday, after staring at garbage since Friday.

"It's frustrated me enough that if they didn't pick it up today, I was going to dump half of it at City Hall, because it's really their fault, and the other half at AFSCME," Volmer said.

Meanwhile, Gutierrez was left wondering how much longer her trash will have to pile up.

"I just have no idea," she said.

Tuesday, representatives with the city of Memphis and the sanitation workers union met with a labor arbitrator to determine what will happen during the next instance of bad weather.  The arbitrator, David Beckman of Louisville, is expected to take a month to issue his ruling.

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