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86 13 Sunset Scavenger, Catching Up in Time In addition to starting an aggressive and complicated program to modernize and upgrade the Sunset Scavenger Company, another huge and controversial problem involved the proposed new bay landfill that the two garbage companies borrowed $2.1 million to develop. This was an imminent and significant problem, not only for the companies but also for the City of San Francisco, because without the use of that site, the city and the scavengers would not have a facility in which to dispose of the collected garbage. This problem had to be resolved within eighteen months. When I became president, I assumed that the attorneys and the PR people were the key players in handling that problem. In a very short time, I realized that this assumption was wrong and concluded that a more aggressive stance had to be adopted. Once again, I found myself taking an active role in that matter because of the lack of initiative shown by those bureaucratic entities. At the time of the management change at Sunset Scavenger, approximately 104 open-body collection vehicles operated for wastecollection services. Each crew had four men; the entire company had an estimated waste-collection staff of 408. The first priority was to create a better work environment and a less-backbreaking means of collecting garbage in San Francisco. Clearly, packer trucks would help resolve that problem. We had ordered four new truck units, but we needed to implement a strong, long-term plan to convert the entire fleet of 104 trucks to an efficient, cost-effective, waste-collection system. Converting the entire fleet to packer trucks would also create a substantially enhanced work environment, no longer requiring scavengers to climb the “seven stairs to heaven” and sort through the refuse to recover rags, bottles, cardboard, newspaper, and so forth. I concluded that we no longer needed a four-man crew because a crew of three could do the same work more efficiently. As explained earlier, the fourth man of a four-man crew was required to station himself “inside the box,” to sort and recover the materials 87 Sunset Scavenger, Catching Up in Time and drag cans from the front of the truck, while the other three brought the garbage up and into the truck. We calculated that not only could three men do the same work but that they could also be more productive. Using a packer truck with three men increased revenues, but also made the labor less strenuous with no appreciable increase in time on the daily route. The decision to boost resources with a three-man crew, of course, was not greeted with enthusiasm by the partners. They felt I was increasing their workload without proportionate compensation , setting aside the fact that both their productivity and personal income would be increased because of the proposed innovations. For a while, workers talked about another revolution because, in their opinion, I was making them work harder. But, as the new plan was phased in, those grumbling crews that were cut from four to three came to appreciate the wisdom of the new program. They found that the workday actually became considerably easier and, in many cases, shorter. The new organizational model became widely accepted. While the workers did not openly embrace the new plan (they never completely stopped griping), they eventually admitted that the changes were not only acceptable but also successful. The physical work environment for the men on the truck was significantly improved, and work productivity was enhanced. After almost four years of planning and implementation, we had purchased new, custom-designed, waste-collection equipment , including front-end loaders, commercial-waste containerization , roll-off units, and packer trucks, and had consolidated work assignments. Before the revolution, we had some 104 open trucks and approximately 416 men to provide waste-collection services. By 1969, after the upgrading of equipment and improved working conditions, we were collecting the same volume of waste but with sixty-three packers, using eighteen pieces of specialized equipment— front-end loaders, roll-off units, etc.—and with fewer than 275 waste collectors and scavengers. With the new and more sophisticated equipment, we had to expand substantially our fleet maintenance programs, personnel , and other job opportunities for the partners within the company , including long-haul drivers and management positions in 88 Sunset Scavenger, Catching Up in Time the yet-to-be-implemented transfer station and related business acquisitions. In other words, we had pared down the labor...


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