You’re probably under the impression that your local sanitation worker has decent wages, overtime pay and good health coverage — after all, all sanitation workers are in a union, right?

Not at all. Many sanitation workers still labor for meager daily wages in brutal, often unsafe conditions for non-union, private companies around the nation. They work with trucks that are capable of crushing them to death fairly easily — and sometimes do. They also have to handle refuse that is often dangerous and back-breaking to lift.

In New York, for example, non-union employees make about half of what union employees makes, without the benefit of overtime pay. While more than 70 percent of the non-union employees report that they’ve been hurt while on duty, only 7 percent have ever received any sort of safety training for their jobs.

Employees often report that they’re afraid to file a complaint about their work conditions or injuries for fear of losing what little income they have. They fear that their bosses will simply stop scheduling them, or cut their hours to the point that they can’t make do.

Unfortunately, unless injured employees step forward and demand the workers’ compensation benefits and other legal rights due to them, there’s very little improvement likely to happen. As long as employers are getting away with ignoring safety needs and intimidating employees into not filing for benefits, they’ll probably continue to do so. There’s no financial incentive to make changes.

It is important for anyone who has been injured while working to consider all their legal options. If you’ve paid into the workers’ compensation system, you are entitled to benefits — even against your employer’s wishes. Retaliation on the part of your employer is illegal and could open your employer up to other legal penalties. A New York workers’ compensation attorney can provide important guidance.

Source: The New York Times, “The Brutal Life of a Sanitation Worker,” Carl Zimring, Feb. 09, 2018