Hundreds Rally At Teamsters Hall In Tukwila In Support Of Garbage Haulers

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[DISCLOSURE: Scott Schaefer, the Publisher/Editor of The B-Town Blog, is an active member of the Directors Guild of America, a film/video workers union based in Los Angeles, CA.]

On Sunday, April 11th, hundreds of supporters and garbage haulers rallied at the Teamsters Local #174 Union Hall in Tukwila to remind folks that their contract negotiations with Waste Management (WMI) have stalled, and that they should be prepared for service disruptions if the workers decide to strike.

On the other hand, Waste Management announced that they have the right to lockout workers, as they’re apparently preparing to hire replacements.

Far as we know, garbage service will not be disrupted this week in the Burien area, so leave your cans out as usual; to check WMI’s status of the strike, click here.

“Waste Management is spending millions of dollars to demonize its own employees,” said Longinue Shipp, a five-year WMI sanitation worker. “I bust my hump every day and if I get sick or get injured on the job, I would expect to have health care. We’re not asking for anything outrageous, we’re asking to be treated fairly.”

According to the Teamsters, after weeks of bargaining, WMI is seeking to eliminate retiree health care and refusing to provide the same employee health care protections provided by every major waste companies in the area.

Waste Management claims that’s because they’ve already made their “best and final offer” which they claim addresses the issues of wages, retirement and health care.

“Sanitation workers often can’t work past the age of 50,” said Tracey Thompson, Secretary-Treasurer of Teamsters Local 117. “They break down from being exposed to hazardous materials like feces and medical waste and fatigue associated with performing backbreaking physical labor 11 hours a day. Why can’t the most profitable waste company in the world offer the same health care protections that their major competitors, Allied Waste and CleanScapes, do?”

Armed with yard signs that read “Waste Management Stop Trashing Our Neighborhood,” community members from across King County spent the afternoon setting up Neighborhood Trash Watches to support local sanitation workers and stop trash from pilling up in front of their houses.

“We won’t let Waste Management hold our community hostage,” said Paul Benz, a Lutheran minister. “These workers aren’t asking for anything outrageous. Its clear to us that Waste Management has an ulterior motive.”

WMI may be trying to provoke a strike or lockout in a move to break an agreement between areas cities and King County. The move would allow WMI to gain a foothold in the lucrative waste disposal/landfill market that is currently run almost exclusively by the county.

“Over the next two days we will release a website and an 800 number for King County residents and businesses who want to report trash pick-up problems and avoid service disruptions,” said Rick Hicks, Secretary-Treasurer of Teamsters Local 174. “We are going to do everything we can to make sure Waste Management doesn’t trash its workers or our neighborhoods.”

If you’re inclined to show your support of your garbage haulers, you can sign up to assist here.

Here’s a video story on the latest courtesy KING-TV:

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7 Responses to “Hundreds Rally At Teamsters Hall In Tukwila In Support Of Garbage Haulers”
  1. Ivan Weiss says:

    I would estimate that there were 500 or more people in the Teamsters hall yesterday in support of the garbage haulers. That’s a positive sign. From reading the comment threads on various newspaper sites, you might come away thinking that there is little support for the Teamsters. That would be a mistake.

    Think about it for a minute. These are jobs that most people not only WOULD not do, but COULD not do. The physical demands on garbage haulers are terrific, and the physical and health hazards that these workers face would be intolerable for most people.

    That is why their salaries and benefits appear to be so high, if all you look at are the numbers. In reality, few garbage haulers start out at that top scale, and few of them last long enough to make it to that level. It’s not like you could start out as a garbage hauler at age 20 and work until retirement age at 65-66. Chances are your body would break down long before that from occupational wear and tear.

    Waste Management is not bargaining in good faith. They are seeking contract language that would allow them to cut their employees’ wages and health care benefits unilaterally, without bargaining. Who in their right minds would sign such a contract? I hope people in Burien won’t fall for their line, and will support the Teamsters, who are just trying to keep up with the cost of living in the face of unreasonable demands from a company that makes multibillion dollar profits.

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  2. Chris says:

    Ivan, I 100 percent agree with your assessment of the physical demands of their job, however it’s hard for people who are jobless to feel empathetic towards the garbage workers when they at least have a job.

    You are also right that the article change that Waste Management is proposing is ridiculous. No one in their right mind would agree to that. But is that all the union is asking for? I heard they’re asking for a wage increase too? While Waste Management may be bringing in good profits, is now the time to be asking for wage increases larger than CPI/COLA?

    I don’t know. Maybe fight against the article change, and be more modest on the wage front? Not my union, so I don’t know the history or in/outs of the relationship.

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  3. Coverofnight says:

    I find it interesting that the first articles on this dispute focused on the unsafe conditions, and the threat to the public safety, that the Union works under. Then WMI shares the salary increases and now safety is not the priority but health care is instead – still with no mention from the Union of the salary increases. Chris’ first paragraph was spot on with how most people feel, me included. I’m at the point, though, where I don’t fully trust WMI either. As noted in the article, going after that other lucrative county market is a lot of incentive to continue this labor dispute. It’s also an opportunity for political corruption – I hope citizen watchdogs keep tabs on that future aspect of the dispute. I only wish we, the citizens – the customers, weren’t locked into one vendor. I bet that competition from Allied Waste and CleanScapes for the Burien customer base would keep all companies from unfair labor conditions and offer competitive wages and benefits. But no, as with the cable company (I won’t mention any names, Comcast) where we’re locked into one cable vendor and subject to monopolistic pricing and services, so it is with the garbage service in Burien. Now we have this strike and my service is disrupted. It sort of has the feel of being an innocent citizen caught in a shootout between rival gangs. Thank God nobody will get killed; but I will be pretty cranky if my smelly garbage piles up.

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    • Coverofnight says:

      One other item: Thanks to Scott Schaefer for his disclosure at the beginning of the posting – the whole article seems to be fair reporting. But I take it back if he censors me again.

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    • Ivan Weiss says:

      Well remember, there isn’t any strike yet. The Teamsters are staying on the job and continuing to negotiate. I can tell you with no fear of contradiction that the TEAMSTERS DO NOT WANT A STRIKE! They are being threatened with lockout, and WM is trying to goad them into walking off the job. People should not be fooled by this tactic.

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  4. John says:

    I’m curious. Every time there is an article about some company getting ready to go on strike and the workers wanting to better their environment, we have to talk about what unemployed workers care about. It seems to me that being unemployed and complaining about what someone should make is comparable to voters who don’t vote and then complain about who got voted into office.

    We can’t change the fact that someone got voted in any more than we can get someone a job. It’s a fact of life. We just deal with it.

    I’ve been unemployed and never cared what someone else earned. I’ve been in a union and fought for better wages, and I’ve worked where I was not in a union. All along supporting both the union and the company.

    I hope that both sides can come to a fair conclusion where everyone can be as happy as they can be. And for those that do not work for the company or the union, let’s let them figure it all out.

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