You are on page 1of 3

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Mr. Rashad Young, City Administrator

The City of Washington, DC
John A Wilson Building
1350 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW, Suite 521
Washington, DC 20004
CC: Councilmember Mary Cheh
1350 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW, Suite 108
Dear Mr. Young:
We are reaching out and requesting a meeting with you in order to find
solutions to an issue that has plagued the Leaf Season Program Crew
specifically, and the Department of Public Works more generally, for many
years now. The hardworking men and women of the Leaf Season Program
Crew are those seasonal employees brought on each year in the fall, who
work hard through the winter and early spring to ensure that DPW is able to
clear the city of the deluge of leaves, debris, snow, and garbage.
Recently, a few of these dedicated men and women of DPW who are Ward 8
residents met with the members of MegaCommunity Ward 8 and relayed
their grievances. What I garnered from the discussion is that there appears
to be a culture of nepotism, sexism, favoritism, and "budgetism"
within DPW that prevents them from landing careers, as opposed to the
perpetual cycle of seasonal employment in which they constantly find
themselves. Furthermore, like you and I, their bills and responsibilities to
their families are not seasonal, yet the service they provide through their
work is vital to our city.
Last summer they were brought on-board for the Trash Can Removal and
Replacement Project, a task that included cleaning out a warehouse full of
old cans which had been left with rotting garbage in them (separating the
cans out for recycling). The task left many of them with skin infections. This
winter they walked down snow-filled alleys that werent yet plowed, pulling
cans out of yards and down alleys to the streets in order to empty them into
their trucks. Many of them went back and plowed those same alleys later.
They didnt make the tough policy or logistical decisions, but they got the
tough jobs done. These workers, many of whom are Motor Vehicle Operators
with Class A CDL licenses, handled everything that was asked of them
without complaint, often without the proper protective gear, and without the
benefit of health insurance to cover the many maladies they suffered as a

On April 4, 2015, they were unceremoniously terminated for their best

efforts, just days before a planned Sanitation Worker Appreciation Day
ceremony at a church on 16th Street NW. The good citizens of the church and
surrounding neighborhoods, graciously showed appreciation for sanitation
workers and their hard work, but the Leaf Season Crew werent even invited
by DPW.
The irony is that their terminations came 47 years to the date that Dr. Martin
Luther King Jr. gave his life in support of better work conditions and equal
pay for the striking Memphis Sanitation workers in Tennessee. The DPW Leaf
Season Program Crew feels that they are in a similar situation to those
striking sanitation workers 47 years ago. Many have worked diligently season
after season for up to ten years and have not been hired permanently. They
have to sign away any right to recompense if injured on the job, have no
health or retirement benefits, and they are expected to perform some
of DPW's most arduous and dangerous tasks. They work outside in the rain
with no shelter, in some of the dirtiest, most unsanitary conditions, and often
without proper protection or tools. They work through sickness and family
tragedies for fear that they will be let go, or possibly lose their "position" in
line for a permanent job. For the most part, they get to work on-time, work
their hearts out all day, and consistently see themselves used to train those
"new-comers" who would eventually get the coveted permanent jobs.
According to the Leaf Season Crew there is a feudal system that exists
for DPW jobs, and no matter how hard they work, many are not put into the
pipeline for permanent employment unless they are "chosen" as someones
flunky or friend.
After listening to their grievances I have boiled them down to the following:
The Leaf Season workers are kept in permanent limbo,
intentionally, and they make up a de-facto strike-busting crew if they
were ever needed to be such.
Their time on the job as seasonal employees is not counted
towards term or retirement when and if they do ever progress to
permanent employment.
The evaluation system is the mechanism used to prevent and
promote according to favoritism. The process is flawed and needs to be
investigated and changed.
Term positions arent posted and there is no clear and transparent
process as to how Leaf Season Program Crew can get Term and
Permanent positions. I was told the chosen people are pulled to the
side and told that they have a position before ever applying. Then they

apply. Both the requirements and the process need to be investigated

thoroughly by an independent body.
Leaf Season Program Crew has to work in some of the most
dangerous conditions, often without proper protective gear, without
health benefits, and they must sign away all rights to legal recourse.
Their pay does not reflect the level of liability they are expected to
I have high hopes for the Bowser Administration and have faith that you
possess the determination to get to the heart of issues such as this one. I
hope that you can find time to meet with the group, hear them out, and look
for solutions to help these workers held in limbo reach the coveted middle
class. Thank you for your time and attention to this matter.
All the best,
Akili West
MegaCommunity Ward 8
Please click link to see community feedback:
Community View of the Importance of DPW Leaf Season Crew
Leaf Season Program Crew Contacts:
Taj Gilmor
Isiah McKeever