Low wages to blame for labor shortage behind yard waste pileup

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — Curbside recycling was kicked to the curb Monday after Mayor Lenny Curry announced the city would suspend pickup to instead focus on yard waste.

Action News Jax told you last week when the city made the announcement and blamed an ongoing labor shortage for the missed pickups.

Ronnie Burris, the business manager for Laborers’ International Union of North America Local 630, said it’s a wage shortage that created this problem.

>>LINK: Heads up Jacksonville residents! No curbside recycling starting Monday

Many employees lost work during the COVID-19 shutdown and made more money from federal and state unemployment benefits than they did on the job, Burris explained.

“Now that’s gone and people are starting to come back to work,” he said. “You’ve got to have something to offer them to get them to stay.”

A senior trash truck driver makes up to $41,000 in Jacksonville. Employees on back of the truck make around $34,000.

“They’re not staying. They’re leaving because they can go make more money elsewhere,” he said. “The work’s not as bad, it’s not as hard, it’s not as hot and it’s not as smelly.”

Buris told Action News Jax’s Robert Grant that a CDL driver can make up to $80,000 at companies like Amazon and Walmart, which also offer benefits and pensions.

The low pay also increases turnover. Burris said lower-level employees stay less than two years on average.

Several years ago, municipalities started contracting out solid waste to companies like Waste Management and Waste Pro.

The City of Jacksonville has contracts with Waste Pro, Advanced Disposal Services and Republic Services.

As of July, the companies face a total of $502,250 in fines combined for missed pickups.

“They’re having major problems all over and it’s because there’s no loyalty from these major companies,” Burris said.

He suggested municipalities stop contracting out the work.