BALTIMORE (WJZ) — Baltimore City Councilmembers Zeke Cohen and Isaac “Yitzy” Schleifer are continuing to push for pay increases and bonuses for Department of Public Works workers who they say are grossly underpaid.

They held a DPW Appreciation Day event at a DPW drop-off center on Tuesday. Both councilmembers said they feel like they need to show up for these sanitation workers since they’ve been hit pretty hard by the coronavirus pandemic. So they are standing by them and trying to continue that push for more pay for them.

“Look, they’ve gotten sick for us, one of them died after working on the back of a truck for us, we owe it to them to show up,” Councilman Cohen said.

They are working to increase their pay from $11 to $15 an hour.

“The pay is not adequate enough, it’s well overdue, it’s well overdue it’s about time,” one worker, Kenard Wallace said.

Multiple outbreaks of COVID-19 at city sanitation sites and more trash has led to pickup delays during the pandemic and a suspension of curbside recycling pickup.

Some workers have stopped also working but for those who stayed on the job, the councilmembers also want to get them a $5,000 bonus.

“If we want to get trash consistently picked up it would behoove us to pay people a decent wage,” Cohen said.

The resolution to get them a raise is still in a council committee. Both councilmembers have also called on the mayor to use CARES Act funds to pay for the bonuses.

“We wanted to show them that city leadership does appreciate them and that we’re going to be here for them until we can get them this raise,” Councilman Schleifer said.

WJZ reached out to Mayor Jack Young’s office and it said the mayor is in agreement with the councilmembers about the urgent need to address the pay. However, there is a compensation study that the mayor still has to review:

“Mayor Young has been focused on addressing this issue since before the pandemic. In January, the Mayor commissioned a compensation study for members of the Department of Public Works. Mayor Young looks forward to reviewing the study and taking the appropriate steps and he appreciates that the Councilmen are in agreement with him about the urgent need to address this pay discrepancy for some of our most essential workers.“

For the latest information on coronavirus go to the Maryland Health Department’s website or call 211. You can find all of WJZ’s coverage on coronavirus in Maryland here.

Stetson Miller

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