Somebody Has to Say It: Let’s Talk Wages, Not Waste

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Yes, we are fully aware that the complaints about trash collection across New Orleans are rising. Want to know what’s not rising — the wages of the trash collectors. 

We’re going to keep this “Somebody Has to Say It” brief. We are keeping it brief because we’ve said this more times than we can count about trash collectors, grocery store workers, hotel workers, restaurants and fast food workers, or most any other job related to the service industry.

The bottom line is that it is time to start paying people what they are worth. The cities sanitation contractors have said that one of the reasons they have had trouble meeting their contractual obligation is because they are having a struggle finding workers. Look trash collecting is not only a dirty job, but it is a dangerous job. We’re finding out the hard way that somebody has to do it. And that somebody should be making a salary that is commensurate with the service that they provide. If not, as many New Orleans have learned over the last several weeks, maybe nobody has to do it.

According to a 2019 survey by Money Talk News, the average annual wage for trash and recycling collectors in our great state was $33,300 — a bit less than $16 an hour before taxes for a 40 hour work week. Meanwhile, a recent study supports that in order to rent a two-bedroom home in the New Orleans-Metairie area—without spending more than 30 percent of annual income—an individual would need to make $18.54 an hour, bringing in at least $38,560 annually.

Stinks, doesn’t it?

So as the pile of festering garbage sits on your curb, ask yourself what you think your friendly neighborhood garbage truck hopper should be earning.

This is not just about Metro Disposal or the piles of trash in New Orleans. This is an issue that the state legislature has to get serious about. Workers across Louisiana deserve much more than a minimum wage set at $7.25. This is an issue that big business and major corporations have to get serious about. It is time to value your workers by paying them a wage that allows them to take care of their families.

Until we get serious about living wages in Louisiana, we are going to be hard-pressed to find people willing to pick up our garbage, make up our hotel beds, serve our food, or to do just about anything else that we have come to rely on while they earn wages that will not even allow them to rent a decent apartment.