BALTIMORE (WJZ) — Two Baltimore City council members want public works department workers to immediately get a $5,000 bonus.
Councilmen Isaac “Yitzy” Schleifer and Zeke Cohen are proposing the bonus for both full-time and part-time employees who have worked throughout the pandemic.
“It is one of the hardest jobs in all of city government is to be a sanitation worker,” Cohen said, adding the bonus is “the least we can do.”
Schleifer had already called on the city to give the DPW workers an hourly raise.
“This bonus would be very helpful to these workers and their families most of which live in Baltimore city,” Schleifer said.
The councilmembers believe the money is available from CARES Act funding the city received. They hope the mayor will approve their proposal.
WJZ reached out to Mayor Jack Young’s office to see if the proposal would be feasible; so far, his office has not responded.
The sanitation industry has been severely impacted by COVID-19. Multiple outbreaks of the virus at Baltimore sanitation facilities and an increase in trash volume led to pickup delays.
Those delays led the city to suspend curbside recycling pickup to reallocate workers to the trash backlog. Residents now have to take recycling to designated drop-off sites across the city.
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For the crews who kept working throughout the pandemic, the councilmembers argue the money is there to give the workers a bonus.
“We know that our sanitation workers have suffered and gotten sick. They are scared, that morale is low and so we feel this is the least our city can do to support them in this critical moment,” Cohen said.
The bonus is a short term fix. Earlier this month, the council approved a resolution that would raise the hourly wage for workers from $11 to $15, but that process could take some time to be fully approved.
“As we stand today, recycling is still canceled and we need to be able to get more workers back so that we don’t have more… impact not just on recycling, but also on trash collection as a whole,” Schleifer said.
Residents were split on the proposal.
“They don’t come into our neighborhoods, there are plenty of neighborhoods that they need to pick up from and they don’t,” one Baltimorean said.
“I think it’s great, they are working hard and obviously conditions are bad,” one man said.