Mayor candidate Charlie Kratovil condemned the illegal use of children in sanitation work and the improper dumping of a hospital’s medical waste
NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ—Residents rallied in front of New Brunswick City Hall this Labor Day to support city workers, joining Charlie Kratovil’s campaign for Mayor in calling on the city to provide safe working conditions, and demanding federal investigations into illegal practices.
The Kratovil campaign joined with workers from the New Brunswick Department of Public Works (DPW) to expose serious labor law violations and lay out six demands for the current city administration:
- Safe working conditions
- Include shop stewards in ongoing negotiations for the new union contract
- Time and a half for all overtime, holidays, and Sundays
- Improved communication with the management
- All employees must be given the required breaks during their shifts
- Hazard pay for staff that worked during the COVID-19 pandemic
Kratovil, who has been an investigative journalist and community organizer for over a decade, teamed up with Brittany Richardson, a DPW employee and union shop steward for the sanitation division, to call out the city for its mistreatment of workers and stand in solidarity behind the demands.
DPW workers first reached out to Kratovil after trying and failing to get city leaders to address their concerns.
“I took the proper route to do things behind the scenes. However, no one listened. No one cared. But Charlie did,” said Richardson.
Richardson noted the 31-year incumbent Mayor, James Cahill, hung up on her when she tried to speak to him on the phone.
“I reached out to Cahill to explain the same things that I explained to Charlie, and he told me that there are memos and orders to follow, and if you don’t like it, find another job. And he hung up the phone.”
Richardson thanked Kratovil, his campaign team, her fellow DPW workers, and the people of the city.
“The people of this city make me continue on to want to work for this city. I grew up in this city and I want to contribute to this city.”
At the event, Kratovil exposed serious violations of labor laws, including a 2021 incident where city officials made DPW workers pick up medical waste from Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital (RWJUH), and improperly dispose of it in the Middlesex County landfill.
On February 2, 2021, Richardson’s supervisor ordered her and her co-workers to pick up medical waste from RWJUH. They handled over 40 bins of medical waste, including plastic bags filled with used needles.
A photo of one of the bags, and another showing DPW workers at the RWJUH loading dock, can be seen below:
The Kratovil campaign identified this as a likely violation of Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) standards around the handling of infectious materials, which can contain bloodborne pathogens and spread disease.
“How little does the administration value its workers to put them in harm’s way just because a power player like Robert Wood Johnson calls in a favor?” asked Kratovil. “This is unacceptable and I will put an end to it when I’m Mayor.”
Kratovil also noted that the dumping of RWJUH’s waste in the landfill was done in violation of the policies and procedures of the Middlesex County Utilities Authority, which prohibit the dumping of regulated medical waste at the East Brunswick facility. An image of the load dumped at the landfill is below:
Kratovil also raised a child labor concern, echoing an issue raised by many DPW staff at recent public meetings: the summer program where untrained, underage “seasonal” workers were paid $13 per hour to perform work typically done by the city’s unionized sanitation workers.
For at least two days this July, supervisors made teenagers in the program ride on the back of garbage trucks, “throwing” waste into them, and operating the trucks’ compactors.
Sanitation work routinely ranks among the ten most dangerous jobs in the United States.
Harry DeCosey Jr., who recently left his job at DPW, described the incident at a City Council meeting.
“They had children on my truck! Fifteen and sixteen years old, on my truck with me,” said DeCosey. “One of the children almost fell off of my truck because they should not be on the back of a garbage truck driving down the street going 35 or 40 miles an hour.”
The Kratovil campaign spoke with multiple teens in the program who verified this disturbing information.
“We didn’t have a decision… they never asked if we’re OK with it or trained us at all,” said one teen worker, who wished to remain anonymous. “It was hard to stay on the truck because of the speed.”
Kratovil called out the city for undermining union labor, putting local children in danger, and violating the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), which clearly states: “No employee under 18 years may serve as an outside helper on a motor vehicle.”
The law notes that that kind of work is “particularly hazardous for the employment of minors.”
Kratovil is calling for a federal investigation into the violations of labor laws, and will be filing complaints with the MCUA, the New Jersey Department of Health, the New Jersey Department of Labor, and OSHA.
He also revealed that the city government has failed to use the tens of millions of dollars they’ve received in federal pandemic relief funding. Meanwhile, the DPW workers have been demanding hazard pay for the dangerous and essential job they had to work during the COVID-19 pandemic, and have been repeatedly denied.
When pressed on what they chose to allocate this funding to instead of giving DPW workers much-deserved hazard pay, the city admitted that they have not spent any of the funds. In a response to a recent Open Public Records Act (OPRA) request, New Brunswick Director of Finance Richard J. Mulrine stated: “This money has not been spent to date.”
“These funds were meant to support our community during an incredibly difficult time, and hazard pay for essential workers would have been a critical use of those resources,” said Kratovil. “They’ve squandered the opportunity to help our community, and failed miserably to protect and support our workers.”
Charlie Kratovil is the only Independent candidate on the ballot for Mayor of New Brunswick.