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Pittsburgh Sanitation Workers Refusing To Work Until They Are Given Protective Gear

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) - Garbage could be piling up across the city of Pittsburgh as sanitation workers refused to report for work on Wednesday morning.

Some of them said they are not being given enough protective gear as the coronavirus continues to spread through the area.

The parking lot of the city's sanitation building was packed with men and women who are usually out on trucks.

Photo Credit: KDKA Photojournalist Brian Smithmyer

They have a list of demands for the city before they continue their work.

"I say if we don't pick up your rubbish, what're you going to do with it?" asked Pittsburgh Environmental Services employee Tom Foley.

Emotions ran high as dozens of sanitation workers for the city refused to to work.

"We are risking our lives, we could be contaminated as well," said Sheldon White.

Deemed essential services during the statewide shutdown, White said the least the city could do is give the workers the protection they need to do their jobs.

"We want better equipment, better protective gear, we have no masks," he explained. "We want hazard pay."

Their concerns over the spreading coronavirus continue to rise. Foley said a worker's wife is quarantined and they were never notified. But the city says the the Environmental Services headquarters was cleaned and sanitized overnight after the report was made.

Neither the worker nor his wife is showing symptoms but as a precaution the worker has been placed in self-quarantine, with pay.

"There's several people here who are diabetic, including myself, so if I catch this I could die," Foley said. "There's a bunch of people, how many of you are diabetic?"

As the workers wait for answers, they're looking to Mayor Bill Peduto who said the trash will always be picked up.

In response, the mayor's office says they are following CDC guidelines for protecting the workers. Plus, they tell KDKA the workers are given gloves to wear and were offered extra plastic gloves to wear underneath.

In a news release, Peduto said: "Environmental Services workers are on the front lines of the City's pandemic response and are performing a great public service to their fellow residents. We all need to come together in this time of need, and to continue supporting the personnel – including police, medics, firefighters and others – who are protecting us at this time."

After nearly two hours, the workers were sent home with pay as their union rep talks out their concerns with the city. If your trash was to be picked up today, the city says it will be picked it up tomorrow with Thursday's collection.

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