Two Local 174 Waste Management members, (D.J.) Thomas (South Sound)and Jeff Michalak (Northest) attended Waste Management's annual Shareholder Meeting in Houston Texas May 3rd to protest the giant firm's attacks on workers including slashing health benefits for members of local 813 in New York who have been on strike since April 3.
The two Local 174 members met with members of Local 813, New York and Local 639 in Washington D.C. "There was a lot of information sharing between the locals, and good media coverage," Michalak said. Thomas said, "Our brothers in New York told us Waste Management is spending at least $22 million on strike breakers and surveillance of our picketers, but it would cost them less than half a million dollars....$53 per driver...to settle that strike."
Teamster members joined by supporters from other unions held a demonstration outside the shareholders meeting which attracted substantial attention from the press and the public. A Teamster proposal to elect the Waste Management Board of Directors by majority vote instead of plurality was passed by the shareholders. Teamster speakers also criticized Company CEO David Steiner's $1 million bonus in 2005 for "improving company performance."
Steiner was forced to respond to issues raised by the Teamsters both during the shareholders meeting and afterwards in the press. Michalak said that getting together with other Waste Management Teamsters from across the country was especially valuable. "It's a good way to see what the company is doing and what might be coming our way, and makes us all stronger if we're all working together," he said. "I think we should be doing this on a regular basis from now on."