MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Labor leaders called for more protections for workers and residents in surrounding communities Friday as they took aim at TVA’s coal ash removal in South Memphis.
“We are mourning for those who’ve already died, but we’re going to fight like hell for the living,” said Patricia Herron, president of American Postal Workers Tennessee Division.
Friday was Workers Memorial Day, a day when employees who’ve died or suffered illness or injuries while on the job are remembered. Some Memphis labor leaders are calling for better workplace protections.
“Congress needs to take action,” Herron said. “There are bills out there. Stop diluting the protections that we want. We came to work to support our families, not to die.”
This group says a prime example was the death of Patricia Moore, a Memphis worker killed at a South Shelby County Landfill.
“I’m here because recently a woman was killed at our landfill here in Shelby County, and if that death wasn’t enough, the audacity of corporate America at Republic Services to demand that the garbage drivers who haul that trash to that landfill give up their safety bonus,” said Matt Brown with Memphis Teamsters 667.
Complaints were also voiced against the Tennessee Valley Authority and its removal of coal ash in South Memphis.
“Right now, we have a problem with pollution and coal ash here in Memphis,” said Marquita Bradshaw with the Sierra Club.
They say they worry about the health of workers and the community.
“Across the state we have lost so many working on coal ash, and we have to take this space right now to recognize those workers that have lost their lives to coal ash, but also communities who’ve suffered public health problems,” Bradshaw said.
Until things change, they vow to continue their fight for safe working conditions.
“People have the right to make a living and come home safely. Communities have the right to exist without pollution,” Bradshaw said.
Republic Services provided the following statement:
“Safety has been and will always be our number one priority. As the union knows, we never proposed eliminating the safety bonus, which more accurately, is a safety and attendance bonus that may be earned by our employees. Rather, the company and the union engaged in an informal discussion about shifting a portion of this potential bonus into guaranteed wages for our employees. Given this context, it is especially unfortunate that this false information continues to be circulated.”
TVA sent a statement relating to the coal ash issue:
“Safety is a core value at TVA, and our overriding priority is the health and safety of our employees and communities, including the Memphis community that we have served for more than 80 years. Specifically, as it relates to the Allen Restoration Project: TVA is executing multiple safety protocols to ensure we protect our employees and the public as we complete the Allen Restoration Project. We comply with all local, state and federal regulations.”