'Garbage Man' Tag Draws Women's Ire

October 15, 1994|By Brad Snyder | Brad Snyder,Sun Staff Writer

Darlene Jones liked the free hamburgers, hot dogs and sodas. She liked the parade. But she didn't like the sign -- "Garbageman Appreciation Day."

"It should be garbage people," she said, at yesterday's annual celebration for the folks who pick up banana peels, cartons and other trash in Baltimore.

Ms. Jones, 34, of East Baltimore is a female sanitation worker -- there are 31 others in the city, which has nearly 400 trash collectors. And apparently, the women are still trying to pick up some respect.

"They just started all that women's libbing stuff," 56-year-old Jimmy Hitt of Highlandtown said of the female sanitation workers at the Baltimore RESCO plant picnic. "They don't collect trash. Maybe it's too tough for them."

True, women usually don't ride on the back of trucks hauling in trash, but a few help clean city streets.

And they generally cope with the lopsided gender split. "Some of them disrespect you, but you put them in their place," said Linda Atkinson, 34, of Randallstown. "This is a man's world."

At times, 48-year-old Anna Griffin knows she is not a part of it. Ms. Griffin is one of two female sanitation crew leaders in the city, according to the Department of Public Works.

"The hardest thing is just trying to get them to take orders from a woman," she said.

But the orange sanitation uniforms help break down the barriers.

"You put these uniforms on, you begin to look like a man so you start to act like one," said Ms. Griffin of Pimlico.

Ms. Jones, along with one other woman and a handful of men, sweeps many of the alleys in the city's Western District.

She has no desire to get on the back of a truck. "They don't put women on the back of trucks," Ms. Jones said. "It's too heavy. You have these men pulling in 35,000 to 40,000 pieces of trash a day."

Ms. Atkinson, who has worked in sanitation for five years, is afraid of getting injured by hauling and heaving loads of refuse. "No woman can do that," she said. "I'm not trying to have no more kids, but I'm not trying to ruin myself."

And she's not trying to be a garbage man.

"I'll correct them in a minute," Ms. Atkinson said. "Tell them I'm a sanitation person, not a garbage man.

"I've been here too long to still be called a garbage man."

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