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.
Recycling and yard waste drivers for Waste Management went on strike Wednesday morning, accusing the company of bargaining in bad faith during ongoing contract negotiations.
Picket lines went up at 10 a.m. as drivers in King and Snohomish counties went on strike. The action by Teamsters Local 117 is expected to disrupt services to area residents; the extent of that disruption was not immediately clear.
At issue in the stalled contract negotiations -- according to the Teamsters -- is a pay disparity between recycling drivers and their garbage-hauling counterparts. According to the union, garbage haulers earn $9 more an hour than recycling drivers.
In a statement, Teamsters leaders faulted Waste Management for what they described as violations of federal labor law. They claim the company has been coercing and direct dealing with its employees, threatening workers and unilaterally changing working conditions.
"Waste Management has forced this labor dispute through its blatant disregard of U.S. law," Local 117 Secretary-Treasurer Tracey A. Thompson said in a statement. "Now they are on the verge of provoking a public health crisis..."
"We call on Waste Management to return to the bargaining table immediately and bargain a fair contract in good faith that recognizes the health and safety hazards its drivers face on the job."
According to the Teamsters, 153 recycle and yard waste drivers employed by Waste Management have been working without a contract since May 31. On June 2, the drivers unanimously voted to authorize a strike.
In June, Teamsters members ratified a contract with another waste handler, Allied Waste/Republic, after the company agreed to address the apparent disparity, according to a Teamsters statement. Describing the negotiations as "challenging," a union spokesperson asserted the Allied Waste/Republic drivers overwhelmingly ratified a contract after the pay dispute was resolved.
SEATTLE - Some of the crews who haul away garbage in the Puget Sound region can't reach a labor contract agreement with their employer, Waste Management - and now they're threatening to strike soon, claiming they fear a lock-out.
The Teamsters union got them fired up and sent them out Saturday to take their message to the streets.
Two of those who went out to put up signs and talk to residents were Darwin Hetherington and George Turner, who have known each other a long time.
"We're pretty much like brothers. He's the brother I never had. I've known him for 13 years," says Turner.
They met through their jobs.
"Basically it's the same job," says Turner. "The same type of truck, we just pick up a different commodity, but it's the same shift, same hours."
Turner drives a garbage truck and Hetherington drives a yard waste truck.
But according to their unions, Turner makes the equivalent of about $9 more an hour in combined pay, benefits, and retirement.
"The gap should be bridged and closed a lot more," he says.
So these two union brothers are sticking together as labor negotiations drag on and on, pounding the pavement along garbage collection routes to hammer home their point.
"We don't want Waste Management to trash your community," says Hetherington. "If your service don't get picked up, you can call your mayor."
His union of yard waste truck drivers and recycling truck drivers refused to even consider Waste Management's recent offer because they say the garbage truck drivers make a lot more.
"I can understand times are tough out there, but this is extremely hard work, takes a toll on their bodies. You can't put a price on that," says union spokeswoman Brenda Wiest.
Hundreds of yard waste and recycling drivers put down their keys to pick up signs Saturday, taking the message to their customers, their neighbors - urging them to call their local city leaders in case this dispute results in a strike.
KOMO News attempted to reach Waste Management officials Saturday for their side of the story, but no one returned our calls.
Click here to watch the video.
With the labor agreement between Waste Management and Teamsters Local 117 expired as of May 31, Waste Management appears to be preparing to lockout its 150 recycle and yard waste drivers, a move that would severely disrupt service to hundreds of thousands of residential customers and businesses throughout our region.
“Instead of bargaining fairly as its competitor has, Waste Management is aggressively preparing to lockout recycle and yard waste drivers, which will disrupt service and put our communities at risk,” said Tracey A. Thompson, Secretary-Treasurer of Teamsters Local 117.
Over the past several weeks, Waste Management has been bringing in its Green Team, a cadre of replacement workers from around the country. Just today, Waste Management required all drivers to hand over their trucks to management and prevented drivers from bringing their trucks onto Company property. Some drivers were prohibited from performing a proper post-trip inspection as required by federal law. The company is conducting a job fair this weekend and has installed barricades, temporary flood lights and barbed wire fencing around its facilities. An outside security firm is also on site. Waste Management engaged in similar tactics prior to locking out 500 workers for nearly a month in Oakland in 2007.
Teamsters, Local 117 has filed numerous unfair labor practice charges over the Company’s unilateral changes in working conditions without negotiating with the Union, direct dealing, and violating employees’ rights to engage in protected, concerted activity.
“Waste Management has demonstrated, once again, that it would rather trample its employees’ legal rights and spend tens of thousands of dollars in lockout preparations than negotiate an equitable contract for recycle drivers in our region. I’ve repeatedly told the Company that we do not want a labor dispute. All we want is for our recycle members to be compensated fairly,” Thompson said.
On June 2, recycle drivers responded to the company’s unlawful scare tactics with a unanimous vote to strike. Garbage drivers at the company, represented by Teamsters Local 174, have indicated that they will support their Local 117 Brothers and Sisters in the event of a labor dispute.
In 2010, Waste Management engaged in similar tactics when the Company failed to bargain in good faith with Teamsters Local 174, which led to an unfair labor practice strike lasting thirty-six (36) hours.
Teamsters Local 117 settled its recycle contracts with Allied Waste/Republic earlier this month. After months of challenging negotiations to address a large compensation disparity between recycle and garbage drivers, Allied Waste/Republic recycle drivers overwhelmingly ratified a 5-year contract on June 2.
“Allied Waste recognized the inequities between recycle and garbage drivers, and that Company bargained a contract in good faith that both protects our communities from unrest and fairly compensates recycle drivers for their labor,” Thompson said.
“We drive the same trucks, operate the same equipment, are held to the same standards, and are often out on our routes for longer periods of time than the garbage haulers. We’re just asking for equal pay for equal work,” said Becky Colburn a yard waste recycle driver for Waste Management.
In 2010 and 2011 Waste Management reported significant profits on their recycling operations. Waste Management posted $13.4 billion in revenues in 2011. Its 2011 net income was $961 million.
Contract negotiations between Waste Management and the Teamsters union representing about 150 recycle truck drivers broke down Thursday, increasing the possibility of a strike or lockout that could affect pickups starting next week.
The contract between the company and Teamsters Local 117 expired May 31. The company said it had agreed to extend a ratification deadline for its last offer until Sunday, June 17, an agreed to meet again on Thursday at the union’s request.
“In light of the union’s request to meet, we were especially surprised that the union came to the bargaining table without creative solutions designed to reach an agreement,” Waste Management said in a statement. “In fact, they refused to offer anything.
“Furthermore, the union informed the federal mediator they were not inclined to vote the agreement this weekend,” said Mary Evans, spokesperson for Waste Management. “Today’s lack of action is extremely disappointing. The union appears more interested in public media displays and the threat of customer service disruptions rather than allowing employees to vote our generous offer.”
The company said its last, six-year contract offer included wage and benefits increases averaging more than 4 percent a year, plus a $2,000 ratification bonus to each employee upon contract acceptance by June 17.
The Teamsters said, however, that the contract on the table is not on par with their garbage truck driver counterparts. The union said the company is preparing to lock out 150 of its recycle truck drivers and that could affect hundreds of thousands of customers.
In 2010, Waste Management workers went on strike for two days after failing to reach an agreement after the workers' contract expired. That strike affected more than 1 million customers.
Waste Management asks that you go to www.wmnorthwest.com for collection service updates.
June 4, 2012: Southern California Teamsters at two Waste Management yards voted to reject a contract offer that would gut their job security and other Teamster protections.
The showdown at Waste Management in Corona and Chino, California is a test of Teamster resolve before contract negotiations covering thousands of waste Teamsters in Los Angeles County this September.
Local 396 members are uniting against givebacks that would gut their contract and give management the upper hand in L.A. County before bargaining even starts there.
The 150 Teamsters voted by 2-1 to reject a contract offer from Waste Management that was riddled with language givebacks that would weaken union rights, including:
- Layoffs by job classification, not by overall seniority. Senior workers could be laid off while new and cheaper employers stay on the job. Members in L.A. County want to get rid of this language; while management wants to spread it into the Corona-Chino contract.
- An expanded Management Rights clause that would give the company the exclusive authority to schedule, discharge and lay off employees whenever they want unless specific contract language prohibits the action.
- New scheduling and overtime rules that would force some drivers to work four 10-hour days (with no overtime after 8 hours) and make some others work nonconsecutive days. Guaranteed overtime for Saturday work would be eliminated.
Local 396 officials recommended the contract offer. But members organized against it. They distributed a detailed Contract Update to inform drivers and mechanics about the language givebacks that would gut their rights.
Members demanded more time to review the offer—and then voted against it.
Waste Management is a growing Teamster employer—and an aggressive one. Management coordinates its bargaining demands nationally and uses concessions in one contract to leverage givebacks in other agreements.
Southern California is one of the largest concentrations of Waste Management Teamsters. But the contract rights, wages and pensions in Local 396 lag behind what the union has negotiated in Northern California and Seattle, other big concentrations in the west.
The contract at Corona-Chino is a chance to draw the line in the sand against concessions in Southern California. The negotiations this fall in Los Angeles are a chance to move Teamster Power forward in the waste industry.
Members in Corona and Chino have shown they are ready to stand up. Will Local 396 and the International Union back them up or will they back down?
Sanitation workers at Allied Waste in Fall River, Mass. voted this morning to join Teamsters Local 251 in East Providence, RI. The 113 employees in the bargaining unit work as commercial drivers, residential drivers, and shakers.
"We are happy that these dedicated workers chose to be represented by the Teamsters Union," said Joe Bairos, Secretary-Treasurer of Local 251. "Sanitation work is one of the most dangerous jobs in America, and they deserve the protections of a contract. We look forward to improving their working conditions."
"My co-workers and I work hard and have been serving our communities for years," said Marco Madeiros, a 20-year front-load driver at Allied/Republic. "Some of us have been here 20, 30 years. We had enough of the bullying and favoritism, so we chose to organize and form a union to negotiate with the company as a group."
"From the beginning, this was always about respect," said Manny Alexander, a 10-year residential driver. "Allied/Republic did not respect us and the work we do. Now we can negotiate a contract with the company that will protect our rights and stop the unfair treatment."
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A settlement was reached April 1 on a new contract for 24 drivers and helpers at Republic Services Inc. by International Brotherhood of Teamsters Local 991, after the local struck the company's facilities in Mobile, Ala., and a series of sympathy strikes involving some 400 workers in Seattle, Buffalo, N.Y, and Columbus, Ohio, followed, IBT announced April 2.
Workers at the Mobile facility “were forced to strike” March 23 in response to what IBT characterized as Republic's “labor law violations,” including bargaining in bad faith, IBT said in a statement. Members had been scheduled to vote on their tentative agreement Feb. 17, but on Feb. 16 Republic announced it had withdrawn from the agreement.
The strike officially ended March 30 when Republic agreed to meet with IBT Local 991 and the disputed contract was unanimously ratified April 1, the union said. The new contract is retroactive to April 1, 2011, one day after the previous contract expired. The new contract expires March 31, 2014.
“Once we were able to sit down with the company, we resolved the issues quickly,” IBT Local 991 Secretary-Treasurer Jim Gookins said in an April 2 statement. “I appreciate the company's willingness to work out a resolution that was recommended for ratification to our members in Mobile. While we regret it took a work stoppage in Mobile, Buffalo, Columbus, and Seattle before getting this resolved, I believe the settlement shows we can work constructively not just in Alabama but in other areas around the country as well.”
Gookins told BNA the rolling sympathy strikes were “extremely effective” in that they “gave the company an incentive to come back” to the bargaining table.
Other Locals Show Solidarity
Some 95 drivers and helpers represented by IBT Local 449 in Buffalo, N.Y., March 23 honored the picket line at the Republic facility in Buffalo. The same day, a sympathy picket line went up at the company's facility in Columbus, Ohio, where some 78 Republic drivers and mechanics represented by IBT Local 284 honored the line.
Republic's trash and recycling work in both Buffalo and Columbus “were effectively shut down Friday through Monday,” the union said.
“The workers at Republic Services care about this company and its customers,” Gookins said in a March 23 statement announcing the sympathy strikes in New York and Ohio. “They don't want to strike, but like the rest of the 99 percent in America, they are tired of being disrespected and having their rights under federal labor law violated while corporations in the top 1 percent destroy their livelihoods.”
Striking members of IBT Local 991 traveled March 29 from Mobile to extend picket lines to Republic's Seattle area facilities. Additionally, members of IBT Joint Council 28 and community supporters set up sympathy pickets. Republic's workers at these facilities—250 workers represented by IBT Locals 38, 117, 174, and 763—refused to cross the lines, the union said.
Wages Increase, Health Premiums Reduced
The contract provides across-the-board wage increases; workers will receive 1 percent wage increases retroactive to April 1, 2011, 2 percent wage increases effective April 1, 2012, and 2 percent increases effective April 1, 2013, Gookins said.
Workers also will receive a ratification bonus of some $1,500.
Workers also will see a reduction in health care insurance premium costs, from 35 percent to 40 percent of the costs of premiums to 25 percent. It will save workers on average between $1,000 and $1,500 per year, Gookins said.
The union said Republic Services earned some $8.2 billion in revenues and profits of some $589 million in 2011.
IBT represents some 9,000 employees at Republic Services at more than 150 facilities in the United States, Puerto Rico, and Canada.
Republic Services did not immediately return phone calls April 2 seeking comment.
By Alicia Biggs for BNA Daily Labor Report
March 30, 2012: Thursday, 250 Teamsters in Seattle went on strike against Republic Services, the second-largest waste disposal company in the United States.Workers in Buffalo, New York, and Columbus, Ohio struck Republic for three days earlier this week.
Click here to read more at AlterNet.
September 15, 2011: Waste Management’s strategy is simple: divide and conquer.
During the last round of bargaining, the company beat strikes and forced concessions on members in New York (2006), Los Angeles (2007), and Wisconsin (2008).
In Wisconsin and Central Illinois, the company successfully pulled out of the Teamster pension, leaving the workers without a real pension.
In each of these fights, the International Union talked about extending picket lines—but it was all talk. In the end, local unions were left to fend for themselves.
In 2010, four locals in Southern California gave Coca-Cola the green light to roll out an “Alternative Distribution” program that uses a nonunion, third-party logistics company to make Teamster deliveries.
Coke’s new business model is a threat to Teamster jobs nationwide. And our union knows it.
The Hoffa administration called an emergency meeting and put forward a plan to defeat the company’s pilot program—if necessary, through nationally coordinated strike action.
But just one month after this tough talk, our union caved in without a fight. Now Coke is looking to spread its job-killing program nationally.
Good Teamster jobs in grocery are under a double threat: nonunion distributors and automation.
Earlier this year, 1,500 Teamsters in New Jersey and the Northeast lost their jobs when C&S, the biggest nonunion food distribution company in the world, moved the work to a new nonunion, automated warehouses.
A coalition of local unions came together last year to take on the nonunion C&S threat. Teamsters began leafleting A&P, Pathmark and other stores to put pressure on C&S by reaching out to customers.
But instead of backing the campaign, the International Union instructed local officers to stop leafleting stores and to bargain a severance package instead.
New Jersey Teamsters lost their jobs. And C&S immediately went on the attack in Maryland.
By now, the C&S debacle had become an election issue. So the IBT launched a last-minute campaign. The facilities were kept open but C&S won major contract concessions.