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Parents want their children to live better than they did. That’s the American Dream. Thirty years ago, a unionized commercial sanitation worker could do just that in New York City. But not today.

We each joined sanitation companies as helpers, the guys who jump off the truck at each stop to pick up trash bags. In 1985, when Allan Sr. started in the industry, he made just over $16 per hour, with benefits. Twenty-five years later, when Allan Jr. followed in his father’s footsteps, he was paid $11 an hour, with few benefits, to do the same work.

What happened? When did the American Dream die for the men who collect trash from New York City’s thousands of businesses?

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