New Garbage Trucks, Worker Retirement Fund Presented to City Council

New Garbage Trucks, Worker Retirement Fund Presented to City Council

The city is on the verge of reaching a long awaited deal with the Memphis Sanitation Workers Union. The plan would help aging workers retire and replace the city's aging garbage trucks. So where's the money coming from? Your monthly trash bill.
MEMPHIS, TN -- As we honor our hard working Americans on Labor Day, the city is on the verge of reaching a long awaited deal with the Memphis Sanitation Workers Union.

The plan would help aging workers retire and replace the city's aging garbage trucks. So where's the money coming from? Your monthly trash bill.

In July, rates dropped $2.25. Union members and some on the city council want to raise rates back.

There are 36 men who are eligible for retirement. They say this plan will make that possible.

"I'm ready to go home," says Cleophus Smith. The last 47 years, he's spent five days a week on a garbage truck. "I love it. I love it I love it"

He's 71 years old and still at it. "We start at 7." He's out on the truck early, running routes with two coworkers. "I'm driving. Normally I get out and work with them."

Smith enjoys his job, but he'd like to retire.

Sanitation workers don't get city pensions. They've been pushing for a retirement fund since the 1960s. It's what brought DR. Martin Luther King JR. to town when he was assassinated.

If this deal goes through, it would be a huge accomplishment..

"It's a sign of relief," says Keith Johnson, a sanitation worker and chapter chair of AFSCME Local 1733. "All of these years we've been sitting here saying not when we'll retire but IF we have enough money to take care of our families."

The retirement fund is part of a larger deal.

In July, trash bills dropped from $25.05 to $22.80. If the council votes to restore that rate, it would generate almost $5 million dollars.

That money would go toward replacing the city's worn out garbage trucks. On any given day, about a third of the fleet needs repairs.

"We still have a number of vehicles out on the streets everyday breaking down," says Dwan Gilliom, public works director. He says the average truck is 17 years old.

"It's dangerous," Johnson adds. "If you're going down the street and the truck cuts off on you, you've got to do everything in your power to keep truck from running into somebody."

Workers say new trucks would not be nearly as expensive as paying for maintenance on the ones they have.

The expected savings from that is what would fund worker's retirement.

Smith is cautiously optimistic.

"I don't know how this is gonna go," he says.

The new plan will be presented to the city council tomorrow afternoon at 3:30.
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