October 4, 2007: Two thousand Teamster wastehaulers in Los Angeles are mobilizing to protect their healthcare and win just contracts. On October 3, Teamsters in three divisions voted by a combined 502 to 94 against Waste Management's latest "Last, Best and Final Offer," which included healthcare cuts.
Waste Management's contract offer would move working Teamsters into an inferior health plan and force workers to pay as much as $200 or more per month for their health insurance.
Waste Management is the largest waste employer in Southern California. Contracts at other waste companies in Los Angeles will likely follow the pattern set by Waste Management.
Healthcare costs are expected to rise by 10 to 15 percent per year, but under its proposal Waste Management would increase its healthcare contributions by just three to six percent per year. Local 396 members would have to make up the shortfall by cutting their health benefits even more or paying out of their pocket.
If healthcare costs rise by 10 percent per year, Local 396 members will have to pay $166 a month for their benefits or face additional healthcare cuts. If healthcare costs rise by 12 percent per year, members would be paying $245 a month by the end of the agreement.
Waste Management made more than $1 billion in profits last year.
Rank-and-File Fights Back
To defeat these givebacks and other weak contract provisions, rank-and-file Teamsters have held their own contract meetings and organized car pools to the ratification votes.
Local 396 officials negotiated similar givebacks in waste contracts in Anaheim, Corona and Chino and apparently thought they would pass in Los Angeles.
Caught by surprise by the rank-and-file mobilization, Local 396 officials have backed away from recommending a Yes vote and told members to vote their conscience.
No Substandard Deal for LA
Local 396 members want contract improvements that are comparable to what neighboring Teamster locals have negotiated in recent wastehaul agreements.
Members have passed out contract comparisons that show what Teamster locals in Las Vegas, Oakland and Seattle have won in their new contracts with Waste Management, Republic Services and Allied Waste.
In Las Vegas and Oakland, members won contracts in which the employer will pay for 100 percent of their health coverage in the first year of the deal. In subsequent years, members won't have to pay toward their health benefits unless the cost of their medical plan rises by more than 12 percent a year.
In Seattle, Local 174 members at Allied Waste and Waste Management won a contract that dropped their healthcare costs from $274 to $30 a month for family coverage. That $30 will never go up over the length of the contract.
In contrast, Local 396 has negotiated contracts with the same employers that force members to make high monthly payments for lower quality health plans.
"Waste workers in Los Angeles work every bit as hard as our Teamster brothers in other major West Coast cities. Why should we get less from the same employers?" said shop steward Jose Morales. "Ron Herrera brags about Teamster Power at Local 396. It's time for him to show it by delivering a contract that protects our benefits and includes the improvements we deserve."
International Union Action Needed
LA County has one of the highest concentrations of wastehaul Teamsters in the country. Our union's numbers give it the power to protect members' benefits-and to send employers and unorganized workers in the industry the message that our union can win strong contracts and a better future for wastehaulers.
The International Union needs to help Local 396 members defeat healthcare cuts in Los Angeles and win the contract they deserve.