Sanitation Workers Off The Job In Dispute With City Over Cold Temperatures

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(Memphis) City of Memphis sanitation workers refused to climb onto garbage trucks Tuesday morning until the temperatures got warmer.

"I don't mind serving my customers, but we out here in this cold and we are not appreciated," said Kristy Clark, a Memphis sanitation worker.

Ten-degree temperatures had employees fearing the worse.

"You are cold from the time you get there to the time you get out. Only warm up is God's sun," said Michael Clark, another sanitation employee.

The workers wanted to wait a few hours until it was warmer and then start their routes.

The city said no.

"They told us to get off the property, so I guess next they are gonna call the police. We are staying around here until the temperature warms and we are gonna go out and maintain service," said Keith Johnson, a sanitation worker.

City officials say 90 percent of the workers went home early Monday because of the cold.

"In my opinion this is nothing short of job action or work slowdown," said Memphis Public Works Director Dwan Gilliom.

Gilliom says garbage collection is already behind because of the holidays, so he told crews work today or go home with no pay.

"At the end of the day we have a tremendous obligation to the community to provide adequate solid waste services," said Gilliom.

A city contract says employees don't have to work if temperatures fall below 15 degrees, but there are  exceptions.

"The exception we are utilizing is when we need to restore and maintain services. We encourage them to take needed breaks to prevent injury or illness," said Gilliom.

Gilliom said sanitation workers in Bartlett and Collierville still reported to duty despite the weather and so could Memphis workers.

"The wind is out here blowing and you on the back of a truck picking up garbage. That's more important than the lives of these people? I am appalled," said AFSCME Union Leader Gail Tyree.

The Public Works Director says there will be consequences for the sanitation workers who refused to do their jobs. It could be docked pay or disciplinary action.

Gilliom says how soon the city catches up on garbage collection depends on the workers, who will definitely have to do some overtime.


  • MemphisBluesLady

    Gilliom could have hopped on the back of a truck and picked up trash if he was so concerned! That is just inhumane!

  • Skeptic

    When is the City going to settle this garbage situation. Start contracting out areas of the city to private haulers. Use the trucks that grab the containers. I tried of my trash Not being picked up. This is the second time in four weeks my trash has not been picked up. I pay for my trash to be collected weekly and I expect it to be collected weekly.

  • Joe Censored

    They should be suspended/fired. Heck I worked outside in Cleveland OH and today would have been considered balmy. Just put on an extra layer of clothing, you wussies. Lazy, spoiled workers need to be replaced.

    Double dip into the pension fund and now 20 is too cold to work. Naaa, no problems there… none at all.

    This town needs an enema.

    Memphis Representing!!!

  • Wintermute

    You media hype all this up lest you be devastated by remarks that you are remiss. I went to college in Boston; and this weather is no excuse to f__k off.

    • Kathy

      good point and so true!!!! But those guys (power) have ethics. They know how important they are and we are glad to see them!!

  • American born Muslim

    Gary and the rest……Stop running your trap on things you squat about. How are sanitation workers overpaid? How do you KNOW that they are lazy?

  • Bill

    This right here is what’s wrong with this city and this country!!! People do not want to WORK. They want it handed to them! I was born and raised in Chicago and delivered packages in sub zero temps for 8 hours plus per day! Complain…. Never. I needed that job! Put on extra clothes and do the job you signed up for or LET SOMEONE ELSE HAVE IT!!! You lazy people disgust me!!!!!!!

  • Wayne

    I say get a private contractor that will pick up the trash make the people of Memphis pay them monthly or quarterly if you want it.get 2-3contractors.and then u can fire these lazy workers rehire if u want to and pay them what they are not worth. 20 bucks an hour is too much too pay these people. I guess if it’s over 100 degrees out there not going to pick up trash either. So glad I live in the county.

  • NYCSanMan

    normally I would support a fellow Sanitation worker but this is unacceptable. We sanitation workers in NYC have been working 12 hour shifts for the last 9 days, pulling double duty, plowing snow around the clock and just getting around to picking up trash that hasn’t been serviced in over a week in sub zero weather. It was 4 degrees at the start of our shift & 12 degrees at the end & we got the job done. DSNY, they don’t call us New York’s Strongest for nothing! Man up Memphis!

  • William Howard

    The Sanitation workers had a good point. The city contract states they can not pick up garbage when the temperature falls below 15 degrees. Then they destroy their own credibility by aimlessly milling around the parking lot in the same sub-freezing temperatures they claim they can’t work in. Now, if they can stand outside protesting, then why can’t they collect the garbage?????

  • Skeptic

    So the contact states if its 15 degrees or below they don’t work. Does that mean if the low is the over night temperature?? It was above 15 by 10 a.m. on my thermometer. Memphis is going down the drain faster and faster.

    • toya

      exactly. my dad did this same job for over 15 years and never missed a day no matter what the temps where. they are truly hiring too many lazy people. all them should be suspended for 30 days with no pay and then they will appreciate having a job. other public works ppl still working especially in the water with frozen pipes as cold as it is.

  • toya

    i was wandering why my garbage was not picked on monday and then when they came on tuesday my whole street had garbage still there. they picked up what they wanted and moved on. i need a refund on what i paid for trash pick-up this week and needs to come from the check of the people in this video. they are never on time and half the time dont take all the trash. just stupid.

  • Don

    These guys don’t appear to work as they should in pleasant weather, If something hits the ground when they empty the trash on the truck it just stays on the ground. If it gets picked up the home owners pick it up. The city doesn’t need more red light cameras, they need to put cameras on the garbage trucks so they can monitor the people they are paying.

    Hey, Channel 3 cameras could do this on a slow day. Just kidding ………or was I?


    Its just sad how some people( GILLIOM) forget were they came from!Gilliom and a few others hiding behind deskes need to get out there, there a** wont last 5 mins i bet if it was his mother he ll be raising sand!!! Now days its all about a PAYCHECK….THIS IS WHY MEMPHIS IS SO CORRUPT NOW STARTING WITH THE AC WHARTON ON DOWN TO POLITICS ETC. They rather save a dog from the cold and freeze a human in cold smdh…then when something happen to someone they run hide and put the blame on somebody else!!!! Just like u making stupid comments yall dont know have of the story about these sanitation workers been treated like wild animals….Gilliom dont care about these workers AJUST LIKE THWORKER DIED IN THE BATHROOM AT THE NORTH MEMPHIS LOCATION. BACK HERE IN THE SUMMER FOR BEING OVERHEATED SO KEEP YOUR MOUTH OFF THE SANITATION WORKERS!!!!

  • Crystal9

    I find it funny that all those people were standing out in the cold complaining about having to work in the cold.

  • Tasha

    Just something else to complain about. Standing in the cold claiming its to cold to work. Its all types of things one could do to keep warm when working in cold elements. These guys are lazy and need to get to work or quit. You will be even colder at your homes if you didn’t have a jobs and cold not pay your gas bill. Be grateful as black men that you all even have jobs in Memphis and not in jail with the rest of them.

  • Leavingheresoon

    The 1968 strike was legit. Those were hard workers placed in horrible and dangerous conditions . This is very different. Now I’m not saying it’s not cold out but a lot of people have to work in this weather. Anyway, I’m pretty sure I recall them striking maybe a year ago as well. If you don’t want to do the work, quit and let someone else get paid almost 3x minimum wage. This is not 1968 so stop acting like it is.

  • Rhys Jones

    Assuming this article is accurate, let’s remind Mr. Gilliom what an enemy he is to humanity, and that no level of customer service justifies forcing people to work in that dangerous environment.
    Dwan L. Gilliom

    Public Works
    125 N. Main St. Room 608
    Memphis, Tn 38103
    (901) 636-6742
    Fax: (901) 636-7116

  • Hard Truths

    Memphis garbage workers are whipping boys for our ever ready racist redneck element.

    If they had a legitimate objection to going to work — temp under 20 — then they were right.

    Garbage workers DID damage their credibility staying out in the cold demonstrating. Sounds like they have an attitude problem, just like the racist rednecks.

    Memphis is just a low-down town.


    I had doing the same thing for over 10 years. It was too cold and anyone that says it wasn’t try doing it yourself. Those of you saying you have done it how does your job compare to those who have done it in worse conditions like maybe 50 years ago? Do any of you think you would get better service with a private contractor?

  • Rob

    I worked for my government USMC and we did not start training until it was below zero for cold weather training so get over it lazy good for nothings and do your job and shut up. I survived more punishment in six weeks than most of you in your entire lives

  • Joe Bo

    I don’t think it was not that unreasonable to request a two hour start time. The temp rise significantly faster in the mornings. The City should show compassion, thats how you get people to do there job even when its -10 degrees.

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