Waste Management strike affects Newcastle services
August 2, 2012
By Christina Lords
Newcastle residents were asked to place their garbage and recycling materials at the curb according to their regular Waste Management collection schedule after a workers strike by the Teamsters Local 117 union was announced July 25.
As of press time, the strike was ongoing. Substitute drivers were called in to transport materials from some commercial and high-priority users in King County, including some commercial locations, hospitals and day-care facilities.
If materials are not collected by the end of a regular collection day, residents are asked to bring them back inside and Waste Management will collect a double load on the next collection day. Newcastle residents can check the Waste Management website for daily collection information at www.wmnorthwest.com.
Waste Management provides the city of Newcastle with curbside collection of garbage, recycling and yard/food waste for residents and local businesses. Teamsters Local 117 represents about 16,500 workers at more than 200 employers throughout the Puget Sound area.
The union and Waste Management have spent more than six months in unsuccessful contract negotiations through 16 proposals.
“We are perplexed that the union chose to go out on strike and negatively impact the public in this way,” Robin Freedman, of Waste Management, said in a statement. “This was simply unnecessary, especially considering the fair and generous last, best and final package offered to Teamsters Local 117 over four weeks ago. Once again, the union leadership has chosen political gamesmanship rather than allowing their members to vote on the offer.”
Waste Management is now shifting its focus to customer communication and implementing its contingency plan, according to the company.
Teamsters Local 117 cites dangerous working conditions and alleged violations of federal labor laws as reasons for further negotiation, detailing four Puget Sound-area recycling workers that have been killed on the job since 2005.
Picket lines were established at several Waste Management facilities at 10 a.m. July 25.
The National Labor Relations Board is investigating a number of alleged violations committed by the company, including bad-faith bargaining, coercing and direct dealing with its employees, threatening to retaliate against workers and unilaterally changing working conditions, according to the Teamsters Local 117.
“Waste Management has forced this labor dispute through its blatant disregard of U.S. law,” said Local 117 secretary-treasurer Tracey A. Thompson. “Now they are on the verge of provoking a public health crisis. Waste Management needs to realize that this community will not sit idly by while they put our families at risk. We call on Waste Management to return to the bargaining table immediately and bargain a fair contract in good faith that recognizes the health and safety hazards its drivers face on the job.”
There are 153 recycle and yard waste drivers employed by Waste Management who have been working without a contract since May 31. On June 2, the drivers unanimously voted to authorize a strike.
“With the health and safety hazards we face every day, we deserve to be treated with dignity and respect. The last thing we want is a strike, but Waste Management is using illegal bullying tactics to threaten our livelihood,” Brent Barrett, a Waste Management yard waste driver who works out of the company’s Seattle facility, said in a statement.