PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Hundreds of union members demonstrated outside of Philadelphia’s City Hall on Labor Day to demand that the city provide its essential employees with greater protections against COVID-19.
“It’s been brutal, it’s been rough, and that’s one of the reasons why we’re out here because we survived it and we’re surviving it now,” said Terrill Haigler, a sanitation worker who led the rally.
Haigler gained local fame through his Instagram account @_yafavtrashman, where he raised tens of thousands of dollars to buy personal protective equipment for his coworkers.
“There were over 200 people in the sanitation department that had tested positive or had to quarantine, so proper PPE is a must for somebody in my position,” Haigler said.
These city workers argue it shouldn’t be up to people like Haigler to make sure they are safe. They’re demanding the city provide PPE, access to COVID-19 testing and hazard pay to essential employees. They also demand no cuts to public services or worker layoffs.
“Ensuring a safe workplace for frontline workers, and particularly now for these essential city workers, where because of the economic effects of the COVID crisis, the city is strapped for cash,” said Martha Harrison, a registered nurse at Temple University Hospital.
A city spokeswoman tells Eyewitness News that PPE is in abundant supply and is distributed to field workers as needed. She added that the administration sympathizes with calls for hazard pay, but that it just is not possible without additional state or federal funding.
The city had to make some pretty drastic cuts, including layoffs to balance the 2021 budget. However, the city spokeswoman says no further cuts are planned.