October 31, 2007: The strike against Waste Management which began on Oct. 19 in Los Angeles County is over. Nearly 500 Local 396 Teamsters are returning to work under a new five-year contract that is identical to the substandard contract they previously rejected.
The new contract will move Waste Management Teamsters into an inferior healthcare plan. If the company’s healthcare contributions do not keep pace with the rising cost of healthcare, Local 396 members will have to make up the difference by paying out of their pocket each month toward their medical plan.
Local 396 members did their part to defeat this substandard contract. They voted down three proposed contracts. Their strike shut down garbage collection. These Teamsters stood strong and deserved the full support of our union—and a plan to win.
Instead, Local 396 members had to take on the world’s largest waste corporation while their union officials stood to the side or actively undermined their strike.
Before the strike, Local 396 officials recommended the company’s substandard contract offer and told members that if they voted it down, the local would call a strike and members would be on their own. And that is exactly what happened.
One week into the strike, Local 396 hosted a meeting of the International Union Waste Division to talk about coordinated action against Waste Management, including extending picket lines nationally.
But Local 396 strikers were barred from attending the meeting.
Three days later at the local general membership meeting, Waste Management Teamsters were told that the company was threatening to permanently replace the strikers and that this could lead to another PATCO—referring to Ronald Reagan’s infamous strikebreaking tactics against the air traffic controllers in 1981.
Local 396 Secretary-Treasurer Ron Herrera did not even meet with the 500 Waste Management Teamsters who are on strike.
Local 396 negotiators then met with the company and agreed to vote the same contract offer again—a contract that our own International Union said would pay substandard wages.
When Waste Management locked out 500 Teamsters in Oakland this summer to try to force through healthcare cuts and other concessions, Mayor Ron Dellums called the lockout a “dress rehearsal” for the negotiations in Los Angeles.
Unfortunately, when it was showtime in L.A. only the Local 396 rank and file were ready to play their part. The strikers deserve to be commended for their courageous stand against Waste Management.
Waste Management has been on the offensive against Teamsters across the country. Our union needs a nationally coordinated strategy for defending and improving members’ contracts, pay and benefits.
Teamsters for a Democratic Union (TDU) will continue to build a national network of Teamster waste workers to achieve these goals. If you want to build Teamster power for waste workers, contact us and get involved today. United, we can win.