Memphis looks to privatize waste pickup

By The Associated Press

MEMPHIS – Memphis is considering privatizing its waste services, which would eliminate about 250 jobs.
Memphis’ city council scheduled a Tuesday meeting to discuss its $60 million recurring budget deficit and one money-saving proposal calls for placing sanitation services, including garbage collection, into the hands of private companies.
“Clearly, Dr. (Martin Luther) King lost his life for people to have collective bargaining rights,” said Shelley Seeberg, a local union administrator opposed to privatization. Yet she said Memphis has a unique niche in civil rights history because of the 1968 strike, which drew King to the city where he was assasinated, and insists the matter today is well worth fighting for.
The outsourcing plan, advanced by City Councilman Kemp Conrad, calls for modernizing an aging fleet of garbage trucks and taking other steps to collect $25 million in savings per year. A private company, under Conrad’s plan, would be able to make 950 trash collection stops a day compared with 450 stops under the existing system.
But the plan also calls for cuts in the solid waste workforce, about 500 employees who do not have pensions. Conrad’s proposal says the private sanitation company would probably need about 250 employees, earning a similar wage but with longer hours.