Waste Management drivers' strike disrupts service to 20,000 Kirkland residents
By CARRIE RODRIGUEZ
Kirkland Reporter Editor
July 25, 2012 · Updated 3:59 PM
Waste Management recycling and yard waste truck drivers in King and Snohomish counties went on strike Wednesday morning following failed contract negotiations, disrupting service to approximately 20,000 Kirkland residents.
Several workers formed picket lines at several Waste Management facilities on Wednesday.
Teamsters’ Local Union 117, whose membership includes recycling and yard waste drivers, accused the company of several federal labor law violations, including bad-faith bargaining, coercing and direct dealing with its employees and threatening to retaliate against workers. The National Labor Relations Board is currently investigating those violations, according to the union.
“Waste Management has forced this labor dispute through its blatant disregard of U.S. law,” said Local 117 secretary-treasurer Tracey A. Thompson, in a statement “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.”
Kirkland-based Waste Management notified the City of Kirkland about the strike on Wednesday. The city contracts with the company for residential, multi-family and commercial garbage, recycling and organics collection services.
City officials said it is unclear whether Teamsters Local 174, whose membership includes garbage truck drivers, will strike in kind to honor the work stoppage.
The expected duration of the strike is unknown.
At issue is 153 recycle and yard waste drivers employed by Waste Management, who have been working without a contract since May 31, according to Local 117. The drivers unanimously voted on June 2 to authorize a strike after they said the company committed a series of labor law violations.
Waste Management delivered its final contract offer to the union on June 6, which proposed wage and benefit increases averaging more than 4 percent per year. The contract also offered the average recycle driver a total compensation package of $98,023 in the final year of the new six-year contract. Mediation between the union and company ended on June 14, after the parties failed to reach a new collective bargaining agreement to replace the contract that expired on May 31.
Waste Management spokeswoman Robin Freedman said the company is “extremely disappointed today that union leaders decided to take this unnecessary step.”
She added after more than six months of contract negotiations, the company put forth 16 comprehensive proposals that were “very generous.”
She denied that Waste Management had violated any federal labor laws.
“That’s a typical union tactic during labor negotiations to claim there were unfair labor practices,” said Freedman. “We are extremely confident the National Labor Relations Board will find (their accusations) without merit.”
She also said it was difficult for the company to get a good count on how many customers region-wide were affected during the strike as some drivers stayed out all day on Wednesday. However, in Kirkland, she said approximately 20,000 customers were affected by the service disruptions.
In total, recycling and yard waste drivers service 220,000 customers in the Puget Sound region.
In the event the drivers do not return to work on Thursday, Waste Management will begin implementing its strike contingency plan. Initially, service will focus upon critical customers associated with public health such as hospitals, nursing homes, and day care centers.
Customers who did not receive service on Wednesday are encouraged to remove their garbage, recycling, and yard waste carts from the street. A double load of garbage and recyclables will be collected at no additional cost on the next regularly scheduled service day.
City solid waste customers are encouraged to stay informed on the progress of the strike and service interruptions by visiting the WMI website at www.wmnorthwest.com/servicedelays.
Questions or concerns should be directed to WMI at 1-800-592-9995 or email@example.com.
Contact Kirkland Reporter Editor Carrie Rodriguez at firstname.lastname@example.org or 1-425-822-9166 (ext 5050).