Striking Waste Management Teamsters Brace for Showdown Over Replacements

Mark Miller
July 29, 2012

Striking Waste Management truck drivers are bracing for a high-pressure face-off as their employer brings in more non-union replacements to pick up trash.

Caught in the middle of it all are the customers, who are starting to complain about their garbage piling up.

Meanwhile, at Teamsters union headquarters in Tukwila on Sunday, striking workers were making new batches of signs to hand out on the picket lines.

There were a few workers picketing Sunday outside Waste Management buildings, but Monday morning could be when the real confrontation unfolds between what could be hundreds of strikers and hundreds of replacements driving their garbage trucks.

"The company wants us to cave, because we see replacement workers doing our jobs," says union driver Brent Barrett.

It's not a dramatic face-off—so far—but the drivers on the picket line say it's emotional.

"They're trying to take our jobs, that's what it feels like," says Barrett.

The Teamsters say replacement workers are arriving from out of state, so the union is bracing for a tense Monday morning, when they believe as many as 200 or more replacements will head out to pick up trash.

If they do, the pickets will be waiting at the gates to send a message.

"We are unified in our fight and ... we're willing to go to the lengths of standing in front of trucks to get our point across," says Barrett.

Five days into the strike, garbage is starting to stink as it piles up in neighborhoods throughout parts of Snohomish and King counties.

"It doesn't really surprise me. It really adds up quickly," said one Waste Management customer. "I know another friend of mine is complaining about  it."

The lack of service is starting to annoy people.

Waste Management still advises customers to keep putting out their trash and recycling, but the company will not say whether its replacement workers will start residential pickup tomorrow—and if so, in which communities.

Striking drivers made more signs after their strategy meeting Sunday afternoon at union headquarters. Leaders say they're ready to resume talks, but it takes two to pound out a contract.

"We'll stand down while bargaining is happening, and if good-faith bargaining is occurring, we will stop the strike and go back to work to get the deal done," said Teamsters representative Brenda Weist.

But Waste Management's position has been that striking drivers must return to work before the company will resume negotiations.

Right now, no new talks are scheduled.

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