MEMPHIS, TN (abc24.com) - A sanitation strike is affecting thousands in the Mid-South. Nearly 200 employees of Republic Waste are walking the picket line, saying the company is engaging in unfair labor practices.
Republic serves more than 200,000 customers in the Mid-South. Employees of the private garbage pick-up company say when it comes to serving them paychecks, Republic refuses to be fair.
Edward Gorman is one of the striking workers. He and the rest of the men on the picket line have a number of complaints.
"They've been messing our checks up for the last 3 or 4 weeks. They cut me a check for 51 dollars, then the next week they told me I owe them 46," he said.
Gorman has worked for Republic for two years. He said not only is money an issue, but also health and safety. "People throwing needles, blood on gauze, iv tubes they want us to handle everyday but don't want to pay us for what we're doing."
Republic released a statement saying it is willing to pay the striking workers for what they do. According to the company, safety bonuses have been available since Monday.
"They are lying," Gorman stated. "They're saying safety bonus checks are in - I haven't seen my check yet so what's going on. It's a lie and we're tired of it."
Gorman says he's also heard the reports that sanitation workers with Republic get paid more than sanitation workers in the City of Memphis, with a starting salary of $40,000 a year. He says that's garbage.
"I haven't seen 40-thousand since I've been working there," he said.
Gorman and nearly a dozen striking workers held their ground at the South Shelby Landfill Tuesday. They attempted to stop City of Memphis sanitation drivers from crossing their picket line. To say that things became contentious would be an understatement.
A Republic employee reporting to work at the Millington location felt so threatened by striking workers, he pulled out a gun and pulled the trigger. Nobody was injured, and the employee was suspended.
Things didn't get quite as bad at the South Shelby Landfill, but it did get pretty heated.
The striking Republic workers don't like the fact that workers with the city broke their picket line and delivered garbage from areas Republic is responsible for.
Gorman said not all drivers wanted to cross the picket line, but "the supervisor for Memphis is telling workers they got to cross the line."
Chad Johnson, Executive Director of AFSCME, the union that represents the city's sanitation workers, said, "I will not, I cannot ask my members to cross any picket lines. They should not be pressured; they should not be threatened with jobs or disciplinary action. Human lives are not worth garbage."
The striking workers say they'll go back to work once Republic meets their demands.
Johnson says he wants the city's workers to stop doing the work Republic is supposed to do immediately.