IBT, Republic Services Reach Settlement After Week-Long Rolling ‘Sympathy Strikes'

A settlement was reached April 1 on a new contract for 24 drivers and helpers at Republic Services Inc. by International Brotherhood of Teamsters Local 991, after the local struck the company's facilities in Mobile, Ala., and a series of sympathy strikes involving some 400 workers in Seattle, Buffalo, N.Y, and Columbus, Ohio, followed, IBT announced April 2.

Workers at the Mobile facility “were forced to strike” March 23 in response to what IBT characterized as Republic's “labor law violations,” including bargaining in bad faith, IBT said in a statement. Members had been scheduled to vote on their tentative agreement Feb. 17, but on Feb. 16 Republic announced it had withdrawn from the agreement.

The strike officially ended March 30 when Republic agreed to meet with IBT Local 991 and the disputed contract was unanimously ratified April 1, the union said. The new contract is retroactive to April 1, 2011, one day after the previous contract expired. The new contract expires March 31, 2014.

“Once we were able to sit down with the company, we resolved the issues quickly,” IBT Local 991 Secretary-Treasurer Jim Gookins said in an April 2 statement. “I appreciate the company's willingness to work out a resolution that was recommended for ratification to our members in Mobile. While we regret it took a work stoppage in Mobile, Buffalo, Columbus, and Seattle before getting this resolved, I believe the settlement shows we can work constructively not just in Alabama but in other areas around the country as well.”

Gookins told BNA the rolling sympathy strikes were “extremely effective” in that they “gave the company an incentive to come back” to the bargaining table.

Other Locals Show Solidarity

Some 95 drivers and helpers represented by IBT Local 449 in Buffalo, N.Y., March 23 honored the picket line at the Republic facility in Buffalo. The same day, a sympathy picket line went up at the company's facility in Columbus, Ohio, where some 78 Republic drivers and mechanics represented by IBT Local 284 honored the line.

Republic's trash and recycling work in both Buffalo and Columbus “were effectively shut down Friday through Monday,” the union said.

“The workers at Republic Services care about this company and its customers,” Gookins said in a March 23 statement announcing the sympathy strikes in New York and Ohio. “They don't want to strike, but like the rest of the 99 percent in America, they are tired of being disrespected and having their rights under federal labor law violated while corporations in the top 1 percent destroy their livelihoods.”

Striking members of IBT Local 991 traveled March 29 from Mobile to extend picket lines to Republic's Seattle area facilities. Additionally, members of IBT Joint Council 28 and community supporters set up sympathy pickets. Republic's workers at these facilities—250 workers represented by IBT Locals 38, 117, 174, and 763—refused to cross the lines, the union said.

Wages Increase, Health Premiums Reduced

The contract provides across-the-board wage increases; workers will receive 1 percent wage increases retroactive to April 1, 2011, 2 percent wage increases effective April 1, 2012, and 2 percent increases effective April 1, 2013, Gookins said.

Workers also will receive a ratification bonus of some $1,500.

Workers also will see a reduction in health care insurance premium costs, from 35 percent to 40 percent of the costs of premiums to 25 percent. It will save workers on average between $1,000 and $1,500 per year, Gookins said.

The union said Republic Services earned some $8.2 billion in revenues and profits of some $589 million in 2011.

IBT represents some 9,000 employees at Republic Services at more than 150 facilities in the United States, Puerto Rico, and Canada.

Republic Services did not immediately return phone calls April 2 seeking comment.

By Alicia Biggs for BNA Daily Labor Report

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