HERE'S what the Wilmington News-Journal had to say in a...

Salmagundi

July 07, 1995

HERE'S what the Wilmington News-Journal had to say in a recent editorial on the joys of working in turnpike toll booths:

"An official of the Delaware Department of Transportation says Delaware Turnpike toll collectors are 'ambassadors for Delaware.' Some ambassadors! For wages that leave some toll takers below the poverty level and are capped at $20,000 a year, these men and women put up with unspeakable abuse from patrons, work in stuffy, old-fashioned booths, go home with automobile exhaust clinging to their bodies and their clothing, and breathe in a rich miasma of toxic gases. The only wonder about their decision to go public with their complaints is that it has taken so long.

"It is beyond reason that turnpike toll takers cannot earn more than $20,000 a year, and that toll takers on the nearby Delaware Memorial Bridge start at $25,000. Their list of gripes doesn't touch on possibly the most serious issue raised by their working conditions.

"If carbon monoxide and other substances emitted by internal combustion engines are the cause of life-threatening disease, what do these workers face 20 and 30 years in the future?

"As far as their being ambassadors is concerned, the footsore, wheezing, headachy toll taker often is the only contact motorists have with a Delawarean.

"When a creep hands a toll taker cash covered with blood or

other body secretions, the toll taker is not likely to be diplomatic or even courteous.

"In truth, turnpike toll takers are not ambassadors for Delaware. Their conditions of employment are one of the disgraces of Delaware. Gov. [Thomas] Carper, DelDOT and the General Assembly all have a responsibility to make sure the toll takers are paid living wages and work in booths that do not put their health and lives at risk."

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