The Spark

“The emancipation of the working class will only be achieved by the working class itself.” — Karl Marx

Baltimore:
Basic sanitation for sewer workers

Jan 6, 2003

Baltimore city officials have finally hooked up temporary showers in a trailer promising to install permanent showers – six months after workers who work on the Baltimore sewer system protested the lack of showers at work. The city also agreed to provide laundry service although so far it has not provided any.

The sewer workers – and their families – run serious health risks if they don't shower immediately after working in underground sewers or if they use washing machines at home for their work clothes. Occupational and public health experts have known for years that hepatitis A and other illnesses carried in sewers could contaminate home laundry.

Yet, in what's sometimes dubbed the "world's leading country," this basic sanitation measure is still not required under state and federal workplace safety rules.

It took 21st century sewer workers in a major port city putting forth their demands to finally win 19th century basic sanitation.