Strikers Defeat Waste Management, Despite Teamster Officials

November 1, 2014: A Hoffa administration VP told Teamsters to cross their picket lines but 130 recycling workers in Oakland California have won a strike that will raise their pay from $12.50 to over $20 an hour.

When Waste Management supervisors ordered some recycling workers to go home and lose a day’s pay in retaliation for organizing for a fair contract, the entire workforce walked out on in solidarity.

The walkout was soon sanctioned as an unfair labor practice strike by Local 6 of the International Longshore Workers Union (ILWU). But International Union Vice President Rome Aloise had Teamsters drivers cross the picket line.

No thanks to Aloise, workers won their contract in less than a week on strike, including living wages and affordable family healthcare.

Management Pushes Too Far

The victorious strike was set off by unfair labor practices by Waste Management.

Last week, rank-and-file members of the contract negotiating committee got permission from a supervisor to hold a shop floor meeting to update members on contract negotiations.

These update meetings are a long-time tradition in ILWU Local 6. But another supervisor objected and ordered members back to work. Members held the union meeting anyway.

The majority of the shift was ordered to clock out, go home and lose a day’s pay while a skeleton crew was told to stay and work. Instead, the entire shift walked out in solidarity.

The rank-and-file walk-out transformed contract negotiations that had dragged on for three years into a very public dispute that played out in the streets and the media.

Which Side Are You On: the workers or the corporation? Poverty wages or respect and dignity? Union rights or strikebreaking? Unions, community groups and clergy knew the answer. They rallied around the striking workers.

But Aloise, the president of Teamsters Joint Council 7, refused to sanction the strike. Local 70 officials waved Teamster drivers through the picket lines.

Teamster Fatcat: Living Wages are “Crazy”

Long before the strike, Aloise, who made $322,838 last year in total compensation from three Teamster salaries, was denouncing the recycling workers’ wage and benefit demands.

"The slogan and campaign that has been developed is based on a promise that cannot be met and is designed to create false hope for the workers," Aloise said in a letter to the Alameda Central Labor Council dated Aug. 22.

Aloise told the press the strike was unrealistic and called the workers “pawns” of the union leadership. 

Teamsters Local 70 officials issued a statement saying it would be “crazy” to ask drivers to honor the pickets “for these kinds of proposals and we’re not going to do it.”

Thankfully, the striking workers were able to win their “crazy demands” despite the sabotage by Aloise and Teamster officials.

Before last week’s strike, a typical Waste Management recycling worker was paid $12.50 an hour. Under the new contract, workers won major annual raises and will make $20.94 in 2019, along with affordable family health benefits.

Waste Management is one of the largest Teamster employers. Is it really too much to ask that International Union officials would back Waste Management workers and not the corporation?

For more on the strike, and a related union organizing victory, read this excellent piece of reporting.