Edwin Buggage Editor-in-Chief
Metro Service Group is a company that was co-founded by brothers Jimmie M. Woods and Glenn H. Woods. It directly employs approximately 250 people in New Orleans and approximately 76 contract laborers through various labor staffing services.
The over three decades old company collects residential sanitation at approximately 66,115 homes in New Orleans, largely in Lakeview, N.O. East, Lower 9th Ward and Gentilly.
Over its existence Metro have been on the frontlines as an African-American business that’s built from the ground up starting with one truck to become a leader in the sanitation industry and building a solid reputation as a successful business in addition to contributing to various civic causes throughout the City of New Orleans.
Co-Founder Jimmie M. Woods, spoke to Data News Weekly about his company and the recent dispute where a small group of workers who were contracted through a third-party went on strike and are making claims that work conditions are unsafe and they are being underpaid.
Claims that in the face of facts says Woods are patently false.
“We have built a great reputation and it is important to present the facts surrounding this issue, so that people know we care about our employees and are committed to their safety and paying them livable wages in accordance with our contract with the City of New Orleans.”
In a fact sheet that was distributed to the media, Metro outlines their position on these issue at the heart of the dispute. In addition, they also note things they are doing to address these issues and ways they are working towards resolutions.
“When we started this company, we were the hoppers, the drivers, the mechanics and we learned every aspect of our business and as we take all this into account when we make decisions running our company. We are a family business and we care about our employees and we are most proud of our workforce that are predominately African Americans and that we can help them provide for themselves and their families”
These are some of the bullet points supplied to Data News Weekly by Metro Service Group:
PPE and Worker Health Conditions (bold)
- Metro Services has consistently paid the living wage as outlined by City Ordinance for both direct employees and subcontractors. The CPI adjusted living wage is $11.19/hr.
- The individuals who are striking are employees of PeopleReady, one of several contracting companies that Metro – and other sanitation companies – use.
- None of Metro’s direct employees are on strike.
- Metro has been assured by all its contractors that no one working on behalf of Metro is being paid less than the current living wage of $11.19/hour.
- No one has been fired due to the strike. PeopleReady has confirmed this in writing, Metro did not fire anyone, and no striker has been able to demonstrate that they were fired, because they were not.
- PeopleReady has informed its employees who are on strike that they may come back at any time – to work on the Metro account or for another client.
- Metro has welcomed an opportunity for a dialog with the strikers presented by Councilman Jason Williams. While there are existing differences of opinion, these are very real and complex issues that deserve to be addressed in fact, based solution driven dialog.
- Metro purchased at its own expense 15,000 masks, 2,000 pairs of gloves, additional bandanas, hand sanitizer etc. for all its employees, as well as contracted labor. Allegations of lack of PPE are false.
- At the beginning of each shift Metro’s Safety Staff provide all employees with health and safety guidance and encourage employees to use their PPE appropriately.
- PeopleReady also provides their own PPE to employees they assign to work for Metro.
Hazard Pay (bold)
• Metro Service Group fully supports hazard pay for sanitation workers and others on the front line in this challenging COVID-19 environment. As our letter of May 1st to Congressman Richmond demonstrates, our position in this regard has been clear since before this demand was made by some of our contract “hoppers”. Without any doubt, our employees and contractors and others in the sanitation field deserve hazard pay.
• As has been made clear by a majority of Members of the United States Congress in a recent congressional vote, hazard pay must be provided by the government at some level, especially as the work in question is being performed for a governmental entity. As stated above, this is why Metro fully supports the Heroes Act and has encouraged Louisiana’s Congressional Delegation to do the same.
Woods says it is important to put the facts out there surrounding this issue to paint a clearer picture of the situation.
“It is our hope that with the information we distributed to the media and to the public that it shows that Metro Service Group is a company that is working in the best interest of all our employees to provide a safe workplace and to provide them with a livable wage.”