Garbage has been piling up across New York City as staff shortages continue due to the ongoing vaccine mandate set by Mayor Bill de Blasio. Mayor-elect Eric Adams, meanwhile, has already vowed to revisit the mandate by negotiating with unions on the issue.
Since the mandate went into effect, sanitation employees said that they've received substantial bonuses in exchange for covering routes that have not received trash pick-ups
, but not many are eager to do so.
Around 1,400 of the city's 7,200 sanitation workers were placed on administrative leave for not being vaccinated. In their absence, what remained on the streets are massive numbers of garbage bags that have been piling up since De Blasio's mandates took effect.
"It's going to get bad in the streets. The garbage is going to pile up. We already have enough manpower problems," Wendell Rivera, a 29-year-old sanitation worker said.
De Blasio dismissed the issue, saying that there had been a 92 percent compliance rate among city workers despite the fact that around 9,000 were placed on unpaid leave and another 12,000 applied for religious or medical exemptions that could take days or weeks to review.
From October 24 to 30, complaints about trash increased tenfold from the previous month in the borough despite being the least populous one. Staten Island clocked over 5,000 trash-related complaints in the span of a week, while Manhattan recorded fewer than 400.
Meanwhile, Adams vowed to try to "reset" the city and restore the faith of officers such as those in the New York City Police Department (NYPD). However, in an interview with MSNBC
's Morning Joe, Adams said that he wanted the mask mandates to be kept in place, and he wants to revisit how the city addressed the vaccine mandates. "What I'm going to encourage him to do is to sit down with the unions. We can work this out," he said.
According to Adams, he already communicated with some of the union leaders, and they are open to a sit-down. (Related: NYC begs for volunteer firefighters as one-third of force stands strong against covid jab mandate
Staten Island rallying against mandates
The heaps of uncollected trash may be the most visible sign of protest against the city's expanded vaccine mandate
for municipal employees, and it is most apparent on Staten Island as crowds gathered outside one of the borough's sanitation garages to block trucks from getting out.
Police later issues summonses for those who attempted to block the sanitation trucks from leaving the facility.
Multiple workers also said that their bosses at the New York City Sanitation Department
were focused on avoiding the trash crisis in Manhattan, knowing that rank-and-file workers exert a lot of power on Staten Island.
"These guys run this island. They really do," a sanitation worker said. "They're not afraid of getting written up, they're not afraid of backlash."
Despite bearing the brunt of the protests, Staten Island residents said that they will continue to support sanitation workers, with some placing signs outside their homes, urging sanitation workers to leave the garbage behind.
"There's no question people are upset their garbage is not being picked up. But I'd say there's also support for the people not picking up. We're a place that really does care about our city workers. The anger is aimed at the mayor," Councilman Joe Borelli said.
Read more about how citizens are pushing back against insane COVID-19 vaccine mandates at Resist.news