Teamsters say no new offer was made to Waste Management

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by Associated Press and KING 5 News

KING5.com

Posted on July 30, 2012 at 8:38 AM

Updated Tuesday, Jul 31 at 6:10 AM

SEATTLE -- A Teamsters spokesperson on Monday disputed a statement from Waste Management that the union had made a proposal through a federal mediator to end the 6-day-old strike by drivers of the company's garbage and recycling trucks.  

Brenda Wiest with Teamsters Local 117 said the union is in frequent contact with the mediator on how to approach the situation, but a formal proposal was never made. 

Waste Management spokesperson Robin Freedman said late Monday that the company's replacement drivers should hit twice as many locations on Tuesday as they did Monday. But the company won't say how many replacement drivers are on the job.

Freedman said  the company will focus on commercial accounts again Tuesday and residential customers in Renton, which is unique:  Renton only gets garbage pickup every other week.

No talks face-to-face talks to end the strike have been scheduled.

The strike began with a walkout by about 150 recycling and yard waste truck drivers represented by Local 117. Garbage truck drivers represented by Teamsters 174 won't cross the picket lines.

The replacement drivers are focusing on commercial customers such as restaurants. Garbage is piling up for most residential customers who typically leave recycling, yard waste and garbage bins by the side of the road for weekly pickups.

They have been told to wait for the next collection day and trucks will pick up a double load. Renton residents also are a priority because they're on an every-other-week schedule.

Picketing at six Waste Management lots, transfer stations and even trucks in neighborhoods will continue until the company agrees to meaningful negotiations, Wiest said.

The company said it would resume talks when the picket lines come down. The union contends that work might have resumed this week if the company had agreed to talk on Saturday.

"We are trying to utilize every tool to work with the employer and every time we turn it seems like they are trying to thwart the process," Wiest said.

Waste Management could face possible fines of $1.25 million a day if the service failure lasts more than a week, said Timothy Croll, solid waste director for Seattle Public Utilities.

The strike would pass that deadline Wednesday, and city crews will be documenting any missed pickups on Thursday, he said.

Any fines would be assessed in the September payment on the contract, which is worth $36 million a year.

Waste Management has the contract to collect waste in 60 percent of the city.

"The company is well aware of the choices they could make," Croll said. "One is settling; another is replacement drivers."

Waste Management's contract with Local 117 expired at the end of May. The union wants to close a gap of about $9 an hour between the pay of its recycling truck drivers and the garbage truck drivers of Local 174.

Waste Management is offering a six-year deal it says would raise average salaries from $58,000 to $68,000 a year. If benefits are included, the offer is worth $98,000 a year to a driver at the end of the sixth year, the company said.

[Are you starting to see the trash pile up? Send us a picture and we may put it on TV during our newscasts - post on Facebook or email to newstips@king5.com]

Vehicles that crossed picket lines Monday were all briefly stopped. But a bus of replacement drivers from around the country made it into work Monday and will help with pick-up service, focusing mostly on businesses and restaurants.

At Red Mill, a busy burger place in Seattle's Phinney Ridge neighborhood, dumpsters are overflowing. They should have been picked up on Thursday.

"We want to get this taken care of, get the strike over, and get back to regular pick up," said owner Michael Shepherd. "This has to be taken care of, it is out of control. It's a hazard. It's nasty.”

What customers need to know

On Monday afternoon, Seattle Public Utilities said customers in the city who are scheduled for a Tuesday collection by Waste Management should not put their cans and bins out this evening. Instead, "Tuesday customers should put out their recycling, garbage and food and yard waste carts next Tuesday, Aug. 7. ...  Customers who were missed for collection today (Monday, July 30), should put their garbage, yard waste and recycling out before 7 a.m. next Monday, Aug. 6."

Get the complete garbage and recycling pick-up schedule on the Waste Management website or call the customer service center at 1-800-592-9995.

About 220,000 customers are affected by the strike. 

The striking recycle drivers are with Teamsters Local 117, fighting for better salary and benefits in a contract negotiation that has dragged on for months.

They would like Waste Management to raise their salaries to meet the pay of garbage drivers. With overtime, recycle drivers make about $58,000 a year. If requests are met, they could make as much as $98,000 a year with overtime.

Allied Waste customers and the King County Transfer Stations are not affected by the strike.

Negotiation updates are also posted on the Teamsters Local 117 website, www.seattletrashwatch.org.

The Washington Utilities and Transportation Committee has said they will continue providing service to only "critical" facilities, such as hospitals, nursing homes and restaurants, without interruption.

KING 5's Glenn Farley contributed to this report.

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