It is noble to think that we live in a society where government does not hinder individuals from reaching their full potential and instead provides an environment in which its workers are treated equally and working conditions are adequate. In most cases, this is true. However, there are times when government employees disregard the health, safety, and welfare of their fellow workers.

Issues like this should be corrected immediately without pause or question when it is brought to the attention of the decision makers. Only when there is hesitation should the public be made aware of the situation in order to provide the overwhelming support needed to get a government body to act appropriately. Once again, we find ourselves in that situation.

The City of Charleston’s sanitation workers are still fighting for something that should be a given. They are seeking to have their health and safety protected through the creation of a union, Local 1199 Charleston. The union was previously known as 1199B, with a history that dates back to the 1969 MUSC hospital workers strike. Through unions, workers who otherwise have no voice are provided the protection and security needed to ensure proper working conditions and equitable pay.

Approximately 20 trucks in the sanitation department fleet have inoperable air-conditioning systems. That is 20 too many. We all know how hot it gets in Charleston, but imagine how hot it feels when you are moving at the rate of a sanitation worker. This clearly presents a very serious health and safety hazard. The city should correct this situation and reevaluate the conditions in which their employees are working. Should the city ignore this problem or continue to delay corrective action, the delay of trash pick-up should occur.

To ensure such conditions never arise, the city needs to seriously consider supporting a resolution that would require city officials to meet and confer with representatives of the sanitation workers regarding their health and safety concerns and to sign a “Memorandum of Fair Treatment.” This is similar to what the Charleston Firefighters Association currently has, but even they had to fight long and hard for this right.

While the city does not have to recognize a union, it must ensure that all of their employees have safe working conditions, adequate equipment, living wages, and a level playing field of opportunities. At the end of the day, these hard-working sanitation workers deserve respect. The task force created by the city to address these concerns should include Local 1199 Charleston in order to open the line of communications and prevent the confusion that occurred at last month’s city council meeting.

In a right-to-work state, most people reject unions. When injustices exist and the responsible parties refuse to act, what else do hard-working people have? Who else can they turn to? What else will work? Local 1199 is the answer for these workers.

Recognizing and working with Local 1199 would provide sanitation workers with the efficient and effective method they need to ensure better working conditions are created and maintained. The last thing we need is for vital city employees to have preventable accidents and for the city to be under scrutiny for not adhering to health and safety standards.

Sanitation workers, who are often acknowledged only when holding up traffic, have gone through the proper channels to seek resolution, but to no avail. In our city’s form of government, the mayor is the only one who can fully address this situation. Not one city council member can correct the harsh conditions of the sanitation workers without the mayor’s consent.

It shouldn’t be too much to ask for the City of Charleston’s sanitation workers to have a true voice that would ensure their working conditions are hazard-free and to establish a level playing field. If you think the sanitation workers deserve better treatment and better working conditions, contact Local 1199 Charleston at (843) 805-9697. If not, disregard this article and get ready to dispose of your own trash.