Chicago Teamsters Stand Up for Strong Waste Industry Contracts

Rank-and-file members are challenging business-as-usual in Chicago Local 731 and fighting for strong contracts.

wm_chicago_thumb.jpgWaste industry Teamsters in Chicago Local 731 are organizing a rank-and-file contract campaign to hold management and their negotiating committee’s feet to the fire and win wage increases, paid sick days, and an end to a punitive attendance-points policy.

“In the waste industry, we’ve seen our standards decline and subcontractors take work,” said John Porreca, a 25-year Teamster at Waste Management. “Most of the major haulers in the Chicago area are union. We could make huge improvements if we used our power to stand up to employers.”

Instead, Local 731 President Terry Hancock has cozied up to waste employers. In 2018, Hancock voluntarily waived members’ rights to paid sick days the labor movement had won in the Cook County and City of Chicago “Sick Pay Leave Act.”

That sellout cost members five paid sick days a year.

Hancock is the highest-paid official in the Teamsters, hauling in more than $420,000 in 2021 through positions in Local 731, Joint Council 25, and the IBT. (Department of Labor LM-2 financial reports are not available for 2022.)

Members organized a reform slate in 731’s local union election last year. The Teamster Unity Slate included several waste industry members and won 44% of the vote.

Now, Porreca and other waste industry Teamsters are putting the momentum from the election into energy winning strong contracts.

Past waste contracts in Local 731 have been negotiated by officials and management behind closed doors and without member input.
This time, rank-and-file members are taking their contract into their own hands.

Members from several waste companies met in January to discuss top contract issues. They designed a contract survey to circulate with members in person and online to get feedback on top issues.

“A lot of members don’t know about the power we have, and management takes advantage of that. The more members we get interested in the contract and the issues, the more unity we have,” said Carlos McDougall, a 13-year member from Republic Services. “If members take a stand, our bargaining committee and management will know that we won’t settle short.”

“We plan to survey members, hold meetings, keep members updated, and organize unity actions at the workplace,” said McDougall.

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