Staten Island, NY – Trash has been piling up in front of Staten Island homes and across New York City over the last week as Department of Sanitation (DSNY) workers were on strike. With the city’s vaccine mandate, some city workers are refusing to get the vaccine, protesting for their bodily autonomy. Sanitation workers were supposed to be vaccinated by November 1 or they risked unpaid leave.
In response to the workers’ refusal to work, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio has set out consequences that will affect the entire department – no more weekends off and 12-hour shifts effective immediately.
“We’re definitely seeing that problem in some parts of the city, and it’s unacceptable,” de Blasio said. “I just want to make it really, really clear. It’s unacceptable.”
As of now, 83% of city workers are vaccinated, but the other 17% have their reasons for not wanting to get the shot. Unfortunately, these consequences not only affect those who aren’t working but all DSNY workers.
According to the DSNY, on a good week they pick up about 12,000 tons of trash across the island. One of the protests was being held outside the Richmond Avenue facility, where vaccinated workers were playing catch up from the past week. “We’re being forced to do something against our will,” sanitation worker Michael Cancelleri said. Cancelleri has been on the job for 17 years and this is his first time on unpaid leave, along with thousands of other workers who are refusing to comply with the mandate. Mayor de Blasio sees the protests as harmful to not only the borough, but to their coworkers.
“You’re harming your neighbors and you’re harming the people of New York City, and it’s time to stop,” said de Blasio. “People may not agree with the decision, but this decision is about the health and safety of all New Yorkers. We gave people lots and lots of time to come along voluntarily, now we’re saying we have a right as the city of New York to ensure the safety of our employees and the safety of our people, and every court, state and federal, has affirmed that right. So that’s the law. There’s one way to do things, which is to abide by the law.”
While Sanitation Department Commissioner Edward Grayson claimed the trash pile up has only been a problem for one to two days, Staten Islanders were reporting it was happening for over a week. Since the mandate went into effect, sanitation workers have been working day and night to get the borough cleaned up. As for the workers on unpaid leave, only time will tell when they can come back to work.