Charging that Waste Management is intimidating employees and engaging in other unfair labor practices, the company’s recycling and yard waste truck drivers went on strike Wednesday morning, setting up pickets at several facilities.
The company denied the charges and said it has offered the 153 drivers a fair and generous contract. The company's garbage truck drivers, members of a seperate union local that negotiates its contract separately, were largely honoring Local 117's picket lines.
Contract talks between , which maintains its regional headquarters in Kirkland, and Teamsters Local 117 broke down last month. The drivers have been working without a contract since the previous one expired on May 31.
Paul Zilly, Local 117 spokesman, said that the company has been threatening, coercing and retaliating against workers and that the strike will continue until it returns to the bargaining table.
“It’s going to take Waste Management returning to the bargaining table and bargaining in good faith,” he said. “They have refused to do that and have refused to listen to listen to our offer. This dispute is about Waste Management refusing outright to bargain with our members in good faith.”
A press release by Local 177 said the National Labor Relations Boards is investigating several violations by the company.
Waste Management officials expressed disappointment about the strike in a press release issued Wednesday afternoon.
“We are perplexed that the union chose to go out on strike and negatively impact the public in this way," said company spokeswoman Robin Freedman. "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.”
Contacted later, Freedman denied the union's charges of coercion and intimidation. "This is a typical labor practice in disputes like this," she said. "It's a way to avoid the real issue. We're confident the National Labor Relations Board will find that to be absolutely without merit."
Freedman said the company had offered drivers a total compensation package exceeding $98,000 in the final year of a new six-year contract. "We feel it is very generous and fair. We would like Local 116 to review that contract and give its members a chance to vote on it."
The company said in its press release that is is now shifting its focus to communicating with customers and implementing a contingency plan. It is encouraging customers to place their waste containers at the curb according to their regular collection schedule, and bring them in if they are not collected by the end of the day;. That means the company will collect a double load on the next collection day.
Zilly said the drivers want a contract comparable to that of other drivers in the industry. The Local 117 press release said driving waste trucks is a dangerous job and that since 2005, four Local 117 members in the industry have been killed on the job.
Many of the drivers were out on their routes when the union called the strike at 10 a.m., so many Waste Management customers did receive service Wednesday morning.
The Local 117 press release urged residents and businesses served by Waste Management to call 1-800-230-7418 to report recycle, yard waste, and garbage service disruptions and visit www.seattletrashwatch.org for updates and information. Customers can also get service updates at the company website, www.wmnorthwest.com.
For a previous Patch story on the dispute, .