Republic Services sanitation workers in several cities across the country have continued to engage in temporary work stoppages amid contract disputes with the Phoenix-based company.
Members of Teamsters Local 25 in Boston began their strike on Aug. 29 to protest Republic's refusal during contract negotiations to offer comparable wages, health care and retirement security that workers at other area Republic facilities receive, according to a release from the Teamsters.
Coinciding with the Massachusetts protests, Republic Services/Allied Waste workers at the company's Newby Island Resource Recovery Park in San Jose, California—including recycling, organics, mechanics, collection and administrative employees—exercised their right to refuse to cross a picket line Sept. 5. Workers in Fremont, California, and Fall River, Massachusetts, followed suit Sept. 6.
Workers in Cumming, Georgia, who are members of Teamsters Local 728 in Atlanta, joined the strike Sept. 9, and workers in McDonough and Winder, Georgia, and Evansville, Indiana, staged protests of their own.
"Sanitation and recycling work is the fifth most dangerous job in the country," Chuck Stiles, assistant director of the Teamsters Solid Waste and Recycling Division, says via a press release. "Yet Republic is spending hundreds of millions on stock buybacks and dividends rather than investing in their workforce and the equipment they operate."
"While front-line employees do the difficult, dangerous work that earns Republic billions, the company is refusing to negotiate fair contracts that provide affordable, quality health care, family-supporting wages and a dignified retirement," Sean O'Brien, Teamsters International vice president and president of Teamsters Local 25, says. "The working class of this country deserves a fair return on their work, and Teamsters everywhere understand that an injury to one is an injury to all. We will stand together in solidarity until Republic changes its behavior."
Beyond disagreements on wages and benefits, workers in Georgia voiced their displeasure that MLK Day wasn’t recognized as one of their holidays.
"There have been many, many complaints from Georgia residents about Republic's trash service recently, which comes as no surprise. Republic can't attract enough drivers to do the work, and its trucks are in dire need of replacement," Ben Speight, organizing director of Teamsters Local 728, says. "It is also a slap in the face to Georgia sanitation workers to refuse to include Martin Luther King, Jr.'s birthday as one of their holidays. King, an Atlanta native, was assassinated in 1968 while supporting striking sanitation workers in Memphis. The federal holiday where we honor MLK is extremely important to our local sanitation workers, and we find it enormously disrespectful that the company is telling workers to give up another holiday in order to be able to honor Dr. King."
These protests have resulted in reports of temporary work stoppages throughout the affected regions.
When reached for comment by Waste Today, Republic Services issued the following statement:
“Republic Services is in contract negotiations with Teamsters Local 25 for a first contract for two dozen employees in our Marshfield, Massachusetts, location. Unfortunately, this has resulted in a temporary work stoppage at our Marshfield location, and over the last week, Local 25 organizers have also directed half-day strikes at four locations in California. Separately, Teamsters Local 728 organized a 12-hour strike in the Atlanta area and appear to have sent two picketers to a Republic landfill in Evansville, Indiana.
“Republic respects its employees’ right to union representation, but it will not give in to the Teamsters’ unlawful bullying tactics. Republic employees from around the country have volunteered to come to Massachusetts to help serve our community partners. Despite continuing efforts by the Teamsters to block our vehicles and harass and intimidate our employees, we have been able to resume our regular trash and recycling collection schedule in affected towns. Contrary to the Teamsters’ claims, Republic Services takes pride in being a preferred employer and a place where the best people come to work. The company was recently named as one of Ethisphere’s World’s Most Ethical Companies for the third year in a row, and is a certified Great Place to Work.”