Artistic tribute to city sanitation workers

Posted: March 31, 2014

JENNY DRUMGOOLE throws surprise pizza parties for the city's trash workers as a thank you for their service. For tonight's party at Little Berlin art gallery in Kensington, it's no surprise - the trash collectors are taking over. And you're invited.

While filming her impromptu curbside celebrations since last May for her documentary "How-To Happy Trash Day" - which premieres as part of tonight's "The Place of Dead Roads" exhibit - Drumgoole learned that the sanitation workers have been working without a contract for five years.

In 2009, Mayor Nutter and then-City Council President Anna Verna agreed to a limited one-year contract with the union while city officials worked on revamping the budget. However, the contract expired, and both parties have been locked in a stalemate ever since.

"It has been an issue for so long solely between city officials and the union," said Drumgoole, a video artist from East Kensington. "It breaks my heart that they feel as if no one cares about them. Now residents can get involved and thank the trash collectors for all their hard work, especially after this tough winter."

Testifying before Council in October, Drumgoole suggested a citywide day of recognition for trash collectors.

"Most people are jaded with politics," Drumgoole said. "But if people stumble into a happy, circuslike atmosphere like the exhibit, it changes the context of the issue. They can realize how hard the sanitation workers' job really is."

Sanitation workers' union Local 427 president Charles Carrington plans on running a "peaceful rally" during the exhibit.

"This is a great chance for us to have a relationship with the people we see every week," Carrington said. "The city wants to change our overtime and pension plans, and give us 15 furlough days. We just want to be compensated. We're not even asking for half of the pie."

Jennifer Crandall, the mayor's deputy press secretary, offered the administration's comment: "Contract negotiations with DC 33 are ongoing. We will continue to reach an agreement."

Local 427 is a unit of District Council 33.

Along with Drumgoole's film, fellow artists Tim Eads and Beth Heinly will demonstrate a bicycle-powered popcorn-maker and a PVC pipe tomato gun. The innovative machines illustrate the exhibit's mission to "create an environment of homespun pizzazz, performance and serendipity."

"The Place of Dead Roads," Little Berlin, 2430 Coral St., 7 tonight, free, 215-694-1309,

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