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Columbia residents express frustrations over solid waste temp workers’ lack of benefits

COLUMBIA, Mo. (KMIZ)

At the Columbia City Council on Monday night, several people expressed their frustrations to the council members over the benefits and pay of temporary workers for Columbia's Solid Waste.

Charles Holden, a temporary worker for Columbia Solid Waste, said he's worked for the city for around eight months. He asked the city council for the same benefits and pay, which regular Solid Waste employees receive from the city.

"We've been going through the city with the rain, snow, everything just like regular city workers," said Holden. "Only thing I'm asking for everyone is the same things the city gets basically."

Holden said he doesn't receive benefits such as medical or dental which fully employed city workers receive. He said he recently cut himself badly and couldn't afford to take time off from work.

"I didn't want to tell my boss because they would've took me off the clock and I couldn't afford to miss money," said Holden.

Holden said he gets paid $14 an hour and base pay for the work is $17 with the possibility of making more depending on the specific position.

One Columbia resident at the meeting expressed her frustration with the city council.

"I am really angry tonight at the direction our city is taking," said one woman. "For you to sit on $15 to $20 million dollars and then not pay those gentleman that are slinging our trash for an extra $3 or $4 dollars an hour that they deserve is ridiculous."

A local union representative from the Laborer's Local 955 joined Holden and explained to the council how the organization represents solid waste workers but not temp employees for the city.

"We don't think that anyone who works full time, especially not for the city of Columbia, which so many of us love and are so proud to live here, should go without health care or sick leave, especially working through a pandemic," Andrew Hutchinson said.

Hutchinson said it's difficult to tell the difference between temp employees and regular employees because the temps wear the same shirts and have time cards.

"I'll say 'hey, is this a new hire' and Jimmy will say 'he's just a temp who's been here for two years,'" said Hutchinson.

Hutchinson said the city could fix the issue by offering full time benefit eligible and union eligible employment to all current temp workers who want to come on as full time throwers.

"Wouldn't it be a great holiday present to give to these folks that they have health insurance and access to paid leave," said Hutchinson.

At the end of the meeting, multiple city council members, including Mayor Brian Treece, explained their frustrations with the pay and benefit issue at hand.

"Solid waste is asking for a rate increase," said Mayor Treece. "I will not support a rate increase when they do this. If they want to come back and say they need more money to pay their workers $15 an hour, come back and tell me what that number is."

Mayor Treece said he was shocked about the issue and the city council wants a minimum $15 an hour standard pay for all city employees across the board. He also said he believes all city employees deserve to have access to health care and union representation.

"How someone can work for the city for more than three or four months and not be considered a permanent employee... I don't know," said Mayor Treece.

City Council discussed possible solutions to the problem and said this was an issue which needed to be addressed sooner than later. Solutions discussed involved changing requirements for becoming a permanent solid waste employee and defining a time frame of working for the city to be considered a temporary employee.

The council ordered a report on the issue and plans to address the subject at the next city council meeting in January.

In the meantime, Mayor Treece said City Manager John Glascock is able to make a decision "anytime he wants" regarding changes for Solid Waste.

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Meghan Drakas

Meghan joined ABC 17 News in January 2021.
The Penn State grad is from the Philadelphia suburbs where she interned with several local TV stations.

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