MOUNT VERNON, N.Y. (PIX11) — The saying goes, “If you want something done, ask a woman,” and three women in Mount Vernon are getting it done on the city’s garbage routes.
Chakka Christopher, Kadijah Patterson, and Kanya Antwi make up the first and only all-women sanitation crew in the county.
“I felt like, ‘Wait. Why not do it?” Antwi said. “It is an opportunity for a female. Let them see that we could do the same thing that men could do.”
They all started as seasonal employees and proved themselves worthy of a full-time job.
“They worked so hard that they worked their way into a permanent position with DPW,” said Ray Rodgers, the sanitation foreman who hired them.
Dwayne Jones, an assistant supervisor at DPW, says they are making history.
“I have never seen, in my 30 years of service, three women on the truck in Westchester County working doing a route,” Jones added.
Christopher was the first to join a year and a half ago.
“I always wanted to work on a garbage truck from out of high school, but they said it wasn’t for females, so when they had the job fair and I went, I got accepted and now I’m here,” Christopher said.
They tough it out just like the guys do through hail, sleet, and snow, and people on the street take notice.
“A lot of people double-look,” Patterson said. “[They say,] ‘Oh, a woman!’ and then we get some people beeping the horn and clapping basically giving us our respect.”
Fourth Avenue is one street where they get assistance with garbage removal from foremen and supervisors, but all teams – despite gender – receive the same help in this location because of how busy it is there.
For civilian jobs, garbage collectors have the seventh most fatal job in the United States per 100,000 full-time equivalent workers.
DPW sanitation foreman Gary Powell says the extra help that all sanitation laborers in Mount Vernon receive on Fourth Avenue is for safety.
“People don’t respect garbage trucks,” Powell said. “I mean, everybody is in a hurry to take their kids to school and to get to work. We understand that, but we also have a job to do, and we also have to protect our workers.”
The women are proud to be the only all-women sanitation team, but they hope this encourages more women to join them and apply at the next job fair.