Community organizations, safe streets advocates, and the Teamsters Union applauded the New York City Business Integrity Commission’s decision to suspend Sanitation Salvage’s license to operate in New York City. The company is the largest private carter in the Bronx. The groups, part of the Transform Don’t Trash NYC coalition, have been calling for such action since May, following two fatal crashes at Sanitation Salvage.
One of those killed, Mouctar Diallo, was a 21 year old immigrant from Guinea, who had been working off-the-books on a Sanitation Salvage truck for over a year. When he was run over by the truck he was working on in November 2017, police were originally told that Diallo was unknown to the company and he was reported to be a “crazed homeless person.”
“Companies like Sanitation Salvage should not be doing business in this city, and BIC made the right decision to revoke their license,” said Sean Campbell, President of Teamsters Local 813. “For years, private carters thought no one would hold them accountable and they would get away with dangerous practices. The next step is a commercial waste zone policy that will demand the highest standards of this industry, in which there are more companies like Sanitation Salvage. The Teamsters will be working with responsible employers to make sure that the Sanitation Salvage workers get the good jobs they deserve.”
The driver who ran over Diallo and participated in the cover-up continued to work for the company and then, April 27, 2018, hit and killed 72–year-old Leo Clarke (known as Leon to his neighbors). Clarke, a resident of the John Adams Houses, was crossing the street mid-block with a cane. BIC banned the driver from the industry earlier this month.
“We are pleased to see the City taking decisive – and overdue – action to get an unsafe and exploitative waste company off our streets. This suspension, along with upcoming system-wide reforms, should send a clear message to the entire private waste industry that shoddy safety practices and disregard for workers and communities will no longer be tolerated in New York City,” said Justin Wood, Director of Organizing and Strategic Research at New York Lawyers for the Public Interest.
Recent media investigations have exposed flagrant worker rights violations at Sanitation Salvage. Workers told ProPublica that they work shifts as long as 18 or 20 hours. Off-the-books workers are paid $80 a shift or less, workers say. The company has been hit with lawsuits over unpaid workers compensation and wage theft.
“The New York City Environmental Justice Alliance applauds BIC for taking this necessary action to protect the health and safety of New Yorkers and others,” said Eddie Bautista, Executive Director of New York City Environmental Justice Alliance. “There is no greater duty for government than to protect the safety of the people it serves. Whether it’s sudden deaths on the streets due to accidents, or the slow deaths visited upon vulnerable residents suffering from asthma and overburdened by excess pollution, we can no longer ignore the consequences wrought by irresponsible waste companies.”
The action against Sanitation Salvage comes as City leaders are implementing major reforms to the industry through a commercial waste zone policy. Advocates have called for the strongest possible reforms to root out bad actors like Sanitation Salvage. They want the city to limit one carter to each zone of the city, improving accountability while decreasing truck traffic and speeds.
“Finally, the city has revoked Sanitation Salvage’s license, demonstrating that haulers that pose a risk to people’s lives have no place on New York City’s streets,” said Maritza Silva-Farrell, Executive Director of ALIGN. “We’ve said all along that accountability for the deaths of 21-year-old Mouctar Diallo and 72-year-old Leo Clarke rests with the company. While accountability after the fact is welcome, it’s clearer than ever that we need systemic reforms of the city’s commercial waste industry. Done right, the upcoming introduction of commercial waste zones will dramatically reduce truck traffic and hold companies to high standards on safety, worker protection, and the environment from the outset.”
In addition to the two recent fatalities, Sanitation Salvage has a track record of putting trucks on the road that are unsafe to operate. As of May, Sanitation Salvage’s trucks had been inspected 12 times by government regulators over the prior two years and violations were found in every inspection. Ten of those inspections – 83% – had such severe violations that the trucks were ordered out of service. This is four-times greater than the national average failure rate of 21%.
“Today’s decision to ban Sanitation Salvage from operating in New York is an encouraging step by the city towards making our streets safer for all road users,” said Paul Steely White, Executive Director of Transportation Alternatives. “But it comes too late for Mouctar Diallo and Leo Clarke, and it wouldn’t have protected Madison Jane Lyden and Robert Martinez. We’ve seen time and again that the private carting industry isn’t going to fix itself. Holistic measures like smart investment in street design, exclusive zoning, and responsible, effective enforcement to stop dangerous driver behavior are urgently needed, because they will compel safety as a priority. If we’re going to realize Vision Zero as a city, then half measures aren’t going to cut it anymore.”
Sanitation Salvage workers have described dangerous practices at the company. According to the company’s workers, they are not provided with safety training or safety equipment that is required by law. They also report that they must work extremely long hours to complete their long routes, making them too tired to drive safely.
The City served Sanitation Salvage with a notice of emergency suspension earlier today. Until customers can transition to new carting companies, the Department of Sanitation will collect their trash.