City of Burien Sends Threatening Letter to Management of Waste Management
The City of Burien sent a threatening letter to the management of Waste Management on Tuesday (July 31), urging them:
“…to return to the negotiating table immediately and resolve these issues before the service disruption that has already commenced escalates from inconvenience into a threat to public health and safety.”
The letter, signed by City Manager Mike Martin, states that the significant compensation disparity between garbage and recycle drivers “does not reflect the City of Burien’s stated commitment to the environment, sustainability and support of family-wage jobs.”
The letter concludes with the following remark:
“…we do not wish to exercise the liquidated damages clause in our contract… but we will not hesitate to do so if it is necessary.”
The City of Seattle has also threatened WM with fines of up to $1.25 million per day.
Martin told The B-Town Blog Tuesday that “liquidated damages” resulting from the interruption of solid waste collection services in Burien “certainly would be in excess of $150,000 a day.”
Liquid damages, as specified in the city’s contract with Waste Management, “is based on the number of blocks not serviced,” he noted.
“Calculating the exact number of blocks at this time is an inexact science, but I think that’s a fair assumption.”
Here’s the text of the letter in its entirety (download a PDF of it here):
Dear Mr. Kattler and Ms. Evans:
The City of Burien has followed with increasing concern the lack of progress your company and its bargaining units have made in resolving the current labor impasse. Burien has no direct voice in your negotiations, but our residents have a great deal at stake. We urge Waste Management to return to the negotiating table immediately and resolve these issues before the service disruption that has already commenced escalates from inconvenience into a threat to public health and safety.
I need to be clear that the City of Burien expects Waste Management to perform its contract or be subject to the liquidated damage clause set forth in Section 4 of the contract. As you know, the liquidated damages are significant. Let me also be clear in stating that we are not interested in exercising that clause; our interest is in having Waste Management resolve its labor dispute quicky and fairly, and in a fashion that will serve the expectations of our residents, your rate payers.
Obviously we do not have knowledge regarding the nature of the dispute among that parties. But Burien is a blue-collar city that believes all workers have a right to a fair wage and safe working conditions. At its July2 3 meeting, the Burien City Council adopted the following statement of concernt regarding the currently labor dispute:
The City of Burien places a high value on protecting the environment and actively encourages its citizens to reduce materials entering the waste stream by participating in recycling programs.
Presently Sanitation workers are paid a significantly higher wage than recycling workers. This does not reflect the City of Burien’s stated commitment to the environment, sustainability and support of family wage jobs.
Therefore the City of Burien believers that those individuals who are engaged in waste recycling should be compensated at comp[arable levels as those who are employed as sanitation workers and encourages its vendor to act accordingly.
Burien has had excellent working relations with Waste Management since our contract with your company began in June, 2004, We trust you will use your best efforts to resolve the current labor dispute, and avoid having what is currently an inconvenience turn into something much worse. As I said, we do not wish to exercise the liquidated damages clause in our contract to hasten an end to the current impasse, but we will not hesitate to do so if necessary.