Waste Management workers prepare for possible strike

Tricia Manning-Smith
Komo News
June 30, 2012

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.

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