Some city workers in Lexington unhappy, may call out ‘sick’ on Friday

Waste management workers say they're overlooked, overworked and underpaid after council meeting Tuesday

LEXINGTON, Ky. (WTVQ) – Some city workers in Lexington are not happy about their pay, so unhappy, they may all get sick at the same time this week.

WTVQ learned about this while covering the Urban County Council Tuesday as it continues to debate how to spend 120-million dollars from the federal government.  

Waste Management Union President Dion Henry said if the division isn’t prioritized in the council’s next meeting Thursday, people can expect trash cans to still be full on Friday.

Susan Straub, Mayor Linda Gorton’s spokesperson, explained that the Waste Management Division doesn’t have a union in the typical sense of the word, as the Lexington Police Department does, but rather a ‘meet-and-confer’ status.

“A lot of members don’t plan on coming or showing up to work Friday, or maybe next week, because they’re done,” Henry said. “They’re tired.”

Henry said the workers who pick up the trash never got a day off during the pandemic, and the division lost several workers to Covid.

“Nobody even cares that our lives have been put on the line,” Henry said. “We had to work every single day.”

Henry said the division is overlooked, overworked and underpaid. He said it’s disheartening to feel that police, fire and corrections are deemed more essential.

Henry said a majority of the workers in the division are Black and said he can’t help but feel race plays a part.

“With everything going on in this world today, it’s like our lives still don’t matter,” Henry said.

He said the council’s allocation of federal money toward different projects should be on the backburner until waste management workers get the raises and bonuses they’ve been asking for.

“We can’t even get our pay raise up for our drivers to the point that it’s a livable wage,” Henry said. “You want us to wake up every morning, pick up your garbage and continue to do what we do. We’re just not going to have the manpower, or the people. We’re losing five or six drivers a month.”

During Tuesday’s meeting, one-million was allocated to Visit Lex, and 10-million to affordable housing. Henry said Thursday, it’s waste management’s turn.

“When something don’t get picked up, trash don’t get – it’s on yall’s hands,” Henry said.

The mayor’s office sent the following statement to WTVQ:

“The mayor deeply appreciates the work that our waste management employees do on a daily basis, and especially during the pandemic. 

The council is still in the process of making decisions concerning the arpa funds as it applies to employees. We anticipate that the waste management crew members who were out serving the public will be included.”

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