Published: February 12, 2013
By Ken Paulsen
A federal class-action lawsuit will be announced Tuesday alleging the city Sanitation Department possesses a “plantation mentality” that suppresses the promotions of minorities.
The workers say they chose Lincoln’s birthday to announce the suit because Sanitation’s practices violate the 14th amendment, guaranteeing equal protection, which was passed after the Civil War.
Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Sanitation Commissioner John Doherty, a former Staten Island resident, “should be embarrassed at the clear mistreatment of blacks and Hispanics at DSNY,” said lead attorney Arthur Z. Schwartz, in a prepared statement to the media, using an acronym for the Sanitation Department. “There is institutionalized racism at DSNY which should have been eradicated in city employment 50 years ago.”
Eleven supervisors are participating the announcement in front of Sanitation headquarters on Worth Street. They say that 55 percent of street-level Sanitation workers are black or Hispanic, but that proportion is not mirrored further up the scale. “By the time top positions are filled, only 3-5 percent are black or Hispanic,” they said in the statement.
The California-based public-interest lawfirm Advocates for Justice is handling the case.
A city Law Department spokesperson said the agency has not yet been served with legal papers and declined further comment. We’ve asked the Sanitation Department for comment as well, but the Law Department typically does all speaking on the city’s behalf on litigation matters.
We’ve inquired with the firm whether any Staten Islanders are among the plaintiffs, and have yet to hear back.