The divide between administration officials and the city’s public works employees appears to have only widened with the announcement that 22 of 36 sanitation workers called in sick Tuesday morning.
Ten additional employees left their positions without permission, city attorney Ricardo Woods told members of the Mobile City Council.
The apparent “sick out” seems to be a response to what employees have said is continued mistreatment and poor management in the department. The action forced Mayor Sandy Stimpson to sign a directive asking, through Woods, for “all able-bodied” sanitation employees to return to work ahead of the potential landfall of Hurricane Michael.
Members of the Mobile City Council have asked attorney Wanda Cochran to provide an outline “by the end of the day” to move forward with a formal investigation into the continued issues.
A video recording from Tuesday morning’s livestream of the City Council meeting shows the Rev. Sanders Mason III, an operator 3 within the sanitation department, telling councilors public works employees are “overworked, due to the shortage of employment, employees and equipment.”
“Even at that, we work in 100-degree temperatures and rain and manage to keep the city clean,” he said.
He told councilors the employees are dealing with a hostile work environment and that the department is “managed unprofessionally.”
“The supervisor in charge is a workplace bully and he’s trying to be intimidating,” Mason said. “There’s a film to corroborate all of this, if it hasn’t been destroyed.”
Councilors recently gave public works employees a 5 percent raise and the workers who spoke thanked them for it. However, the workers said they still have issues with mistreatment and racially motivated intimidation.
“You, ladies and gentlemen, are our next to last stand of hope,” Mason said. “In the year 2018, men and women should not feel like we are living in the Jim Crow south.”
Reading from Stimpson’s prepared statement, Woods said trash pickup is already behind and asked the employees to return to work to avoid “delays for our citizens.”
Councilman C.J. Small and Councilman Fred Richardson asked for a possible investigation into the issues.
“Something is wrong for that many employees to decide to walk off the job,” Richardson said. “What it is, is a cry for help. If we don’t help them they won’t get any help.”
Woods said the administration would welcome an investigation into the issues, but reiterated it was important for the employees to come back to work. Richardson agreed, but added that the directive from the mayor is separate from the need for an investigation.
Wesley Young, president of the public works employee advocacy group, urged the workers to follow Stimpson’s directive, but told the council that as many as four employees who have come forward asking for raises have been retaliated against.
“This is how they operate,” Young said. “This is one of the most evil administrations I have ever seen in my life.”