May 9, 2007: Teamsters at Waste Management are routinely forced to work off the clock. Now a group of drivers is doing something about it.
Waste Management drivers in California have filed a lawsuit against the company for wage and hour violations. Their case is similar to a successful class action lawsuit against UPS that resulted in an $87 million victory by more than 20,000 UPS drivers.
Under California law, employees have to be given an off-duty meal period within the first five hours of work and a second meal period when they work more than 10 hours a day. The law also states that employees who work more than 10 hours are entitled to three 10-minute breaks.
Waste Management drivers regularly have to work through their breaks—including taking their meal breaks in their trucks while waiting in dump lines.
“The company pressures us to get our routes down faster and to work through our breaks. We told our business agent about it, and he said, ‘Leave me out of this,’” said Isidro Valdivia, the lead plaintiff in the case.
“Now we’re getting together to enforce our rights in court and to demand the fair pay and treatment that we deserve,” Valdivia said.
On March 16, Valdivia and four other drivers filed a lawsuit against Waste Management. They will ask the judge to approve their case as a class action lawsuit. If they’re successful, then Waste Management drivers whose rights have been violated will be eligible to join the lawsuit.
The drivers are being represented in this action by York Law Corporation, the same firm that won the $87 million settlement for UPS drivers.
Waste Management drivers who are interested in participating in the lawsuit or learning more about it can go to www.payWMIdrivers.com or contact York Law Corporation at 800-939-1832 and www.yorklawcorp.com.
May 9, 2007: In a wake-up call to wastehaul Teamsters, Waste Management forced through healthcare cuts on 150 Teamsters in Corona, Calif. after Local 396 officials failed to take action to stop labor law violations by the company.
Waste Management has been attacking Teamster health benefits across the country in an effort to get all employees paying for a portion of their healthcare. Entering contract negotiations, Corona Teamsters had a top health plan with no co-pays and were uniting to keep it that way.
They organized a series of actions to win a strong contract. Bargaining committee members held contract unity meetings that were attended by nearly everyone in the bargaining unit. Members signed a petition saying no to healthcare cuts.
When the District Manager for all of Southern California came to the yard in Chino, Calif. to hold a safety meeting, he saw a room full of Teamsters all wearing stickers that said, “Don’t Trash Our Healthcare.”
“We wanted the company to know that we would stick together to win a strong contract and a better future for our families,” said Daniel Barrios, a driver from the Corona yard. “We stepped up. But our union representatives didn’t back us up.”
When negotiations resumed, management presented its first and final economic offer—a blatant violation of their obligation under federal law to bargain in good faith. The company held captive audience meetings and threatened Teamsters that they would lose their jobs if the contract didn’t pass—another violation of the law.
Instead of filing unfair labor practice charges, Local 396 held a last-minute ratification vote without even holding a meeting to inform and unite the members. The concessionary contract passed by just one vote, 76 to 75.
Under the new five-year agreement, members were moved into an inferior Teamster health plan. Even worse, the company’s benefit contributions will only increase by three to five percent a year even though the cost of healthcare is rising by eight to 15 percent.
Under the contract, members will have to pay out of pocket to cover the difference. As a result, members could be paying well over $200 a month to cover their healthcare by the end of the contract "Our union representatives were laughing at us after they counted the votes, but I don’t see anything funny about it. This contract is going to hurt our families and weaken the bargaining power of Local 396 members whose contracts expire this fall,” said Pedro Pelayo, a roll-off driver from the Chino yard.
“If we want to win improvements in the waste industry, then rank-and-file Teamsters need to organize ourselves so we have a strong voice and the power to vote down contracts that move us backwards,” said Isidro Valdivia, a driver from Chino. “I’ll do whatever I can to help my fellow Teamsters in LA County so they don’t go through what we just did.”
May 9, 2007: Waste Management and other industry giants have been attacking Teamster benefits across the country as part of a national plan to shift healthcare costs onto employees.
In April, the company opened up a new front in the healthcare war in Corona, Calif. by cutting the medical benefits of 150 members of Local 396.
Teamsters in the Corona and Chino yards were moved into an inferior healthcare plan as part of their new contract. By the fifth year of the agreement, members could be paying $200 a month or more for their healthcare.
The next critical battle may be right up the road. This fall, Local 396 will negotiate contracts covering nearly 2,000 wastehaul Teamsters in Los Angeles County.
The time is now for our union to draw the line against healthcare cuts.
LA County is one of the highest concentrations of wastehaul Teamsters in the country. The majority of these Teamsters work for the Big Three employers: Waste Management, Allied Waste, and Republic Services.
Our numbers there give us 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.
Teamsters in Southern California know it won’t be easy.
“What happened in Corona is a wake-up call for us,” said Jose Morales, a driver for Waste Management Sun Valley Division. “We’ve got to get organized and be prepared to stand up for ourselves.”
Other Teamsters have shown it can be done. In Seattle, Local 174 launched a contract campaign a year in advance and won major gains. Members at Waste Management and Allied went from paying close to $300 a month for their health insurance to just $30 a month.
“If we want to succeed this fall, then the rank-and-file membership has to be organized,” Morales said. “We need to build a network of wastehaul Teamsters across LA County so we can take coordinated action and show the employers—and our union representatives—that we’re serious about winning the contracts we deserve.”
For more information about rank-and-file efforts to build a network of wastehaul Teamsters in Southern California—and across the country—contact, Teamsters for a Democratic Union.
The fight by Local 174 Teamsters shows that coordination and solidarity can beat back employer demands for healthcare concessions. The attack on Teamster health benefits is national, strategic and coordinated. The fight back has to be the same.
As we go to press, Waste Management Teamsters are on strike in New York City fighting for affordable healthcare. Members in Washington, D.C. were recently forced to end their strike and accept healthcare concessions at Waste Management. More Waste Management Teamsters will face giveback demands in the coming months as their contracts come up for bargaining.
Our International Union needs to apply the lessons of Seattle and fight the national attack on our health benefits with coordination, solidarity and a plan to win
It’s not just Teamsters in the waste industry whose benefits are on the line.
Members of Local 1150 in Sikorsky stood strong during a six-week strike at the military contractor—but ultimately were forced to accept healthcare givebacks.
The IBT held a major rally at Sikorsky and coordinated some political pressure—but these efforts were not launched until after members were already out on strike. Teamsters who stand united like the members of Local 1150 deserve to be backed by thorough strike preparations and a plan to win before they’re called into the street.
Coca-Cola is another major Teamster employer that is demanding that members leave Teamster benefit plans and pay for a percentage of company healthcare plans. Too often local unions are left taking on national employers like Coke one local at a time, and the company is winning givebacks.
Some locals have bucked this trend. When Coke demanded that Local 1035 members in Connecticut switch to a company plan, members were ready. The local leadership began preparations a year in advance. They worked with locals in New Jersey and Los Angeles to build a solidarity front. When it came to crunch time, the International dragged its feet on sanctioning a strike extension, but finally did so. On the very day that the strike was to move to New Jersey, the Local 1035 Teamsters won. They remained in their Teamster plan and they don’t pay a dime toward their monthly premiums.
“By working together, we saved our Teamster medical plan with full maintenance of benefits,” said Local 1035 shop steward Bob Elliot. “But you shouldn’t have to fight management and the International at the same time.”
Teamster locals are proving that solidarity plus coordination equals power. Our International Union can and must do more to back up members and locals in their fights against national and multinational employers.
Waste industry giants have declared a nationwide war on Teamster health benefits.
Waste Management, the world’s largest waste corporation, is trying to shift the cost of healthcare onto employees and force Teamsters into inferior company medical plans. Other waste companies are following suit.
Members of Seattle Local 174 are showing how Teamsters can fight back with solidarity and strategic contract campaigns. As Convoy goes to press, 600 sanitation Teamsters have reached tentative agreements with two companies that will lower their out-of-pocket healthcare expenses by 90 percent.
“The rising cost of healthcare has been killing us,” said Troy Armes, a Teamster at Waste Management. “Under the tentative agreement, we’ll go from paying $274 a month to just $30 a month for family coverage.”
The tentative agreements include new language that protects workers from excessive forced overtime and provides double-time pay for excessive overtime.
They provide enough money that members’ health care costs will be capped at $30 a month for the life of the agreement and also provide for significant wage and pension increases. Local 174 Teamsters currently make $24.45 an hour, before the contract raises.
“Sanitation Teamsters work hard under difficult conditions. They deserve good, affordable healthcare and the right to quality time with their families at the end of the workday,” said Secretary-Treasurer Dan Scott. “Those were our key issues and we mounted a campaign to win on them.”
Members leveraged these improvements by mounting a strategic contract campaign that began six months before the contract expired and by building solidarity, both within the Teamster ranks and with the public.
Members from both Allied and Waste held joint meetings to build unity around their priority demands.
They reached out to fellow Teamsters who were fighting healthcare concessions at Waste Management. Striking sanitation Teamsters from Washington D.C. and New York City spoke at a rally in Seattle.
Local 174 members promised to respect the picket lines if they were extended from the East Coast. Members at Waste Management wore “Extend the Respect” stickers to work and held parking lot meetings to send management a message.
Local 174 also built community support. The local launched a website, www.talkingtrashonline, and aired TV commercials highlighting members’ right to affordable healthcare and time with their families.
As the contract expiration approached, political and religious leaders rallied with Local 174 Teamsters to support their demands.
Solidarity at the Strike Deadline
With a strike looming, management at Allied Waste offered members an agreement that would keep them in a top-of-the-line Teamster plan. Waste Management continued to drag its heels.
Local 174 held strike preparation meetings and made it clear to Waste Management that members would walk if the company didn’t match Allied’s offer.
The parties met one final time on Easter Sunday—the day before the strike deadline. Waste Management not only matched Allied Waste’s offer, they added more money to it.
Local 174 members had made a pact that the contracts at the two companies had to be equal. Members’ tough stand at Allied had helped the workers at Waste Management win a better deal. Now it was time for Allied Waste to up their offer to avert a strike.
Solidarity ruled the day. Minutes before a mass meeting, Allied added the extra money to their offer.
Members will vote on the tentative agreements in the coming weeks. But first, all members will have a week to review a complete copy of the proposed contracts.