The pandemic has affected everyone differently, and while many people found themselves out of jobs or facing pay cuts, some professions have actually seen an increase in their wages.

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COVID-19 also put a spotlight on our country's essential workers, and while it's still commonplace to see signs thanking our healthcare heroes and first responders, there's one profession that has been largely overlooked: sanitation workers.

Trash is such a part of our lives that sometimes it's hard to remember how much we rely on the people that take it away. Across the country, and especially in New York City, sanitation workers were among the unsung heroes that kept society running while the majority of us were isolating in our homes and apartments.

Growing up in the boonies of Ulster County, I never had trash collection. Loading up our station wagon and heading down to the local transfer station was just a part of life. Plus, getting to chuck glass bottles into a giant shipping container and hearing them smash was always a personal highlight. But in New York City, almost all of the 8.5 million residents rely on public or contracted trash collection, and recently, some workers have been able to cash in big time.

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Raking in the cash

A recent report revealed that out of the over 7,000 sanitation workers in the city, roughly 100 of them were able to pull in a bunch of extra cash, making nearly $300,000 in 2021. Most interestingly, the windfall was seemingly due to one specific thing.

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The report said that overtime, likely caused by workers needing to make up for understaffed routes, led to 94 workers receiving extra payments that added up to nearly nearly $100,000 each, causing their annual salaries to approach $300,000. This is a giant leap from last year, when just two workers hit those type of overtime numbers.

While it seems like a huge payday, it's not hard to see why the dollars piled up so quickly. The sanitation department, like many businesses in New York and elsewhere, were slow to hire new help, or were unable to find willing prospects to hire. As Devon Graham, a sanitation worker and one of the bonus-beneficiaries, put it,

for two years, I had dark marks underneath my eyes that just started to go away... I was constantly working because of COVID

So the next time someone tries to shame you and and threaten that you could "end up" a trash collector, you can thank them for thinking so highly of your earning potential.

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