Tentative deal reached in Waste Management drivers strike

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by KING 5 News

KING5.com

Posted on August 1, 2012 at 5:15 AM

Updated Thursday, Aug 2 at 5:54 AM

A tentative deal has been reached between Waste Management and the union representing striking garbage and recycling drivers.

Waste Management released a statement Wednesday night saying the agreement was reached on a new six-year contract after a confidential meeting between the lead negotiators for both parties.

Teamsters Local 117 leaders plan to fully recommend members approve the new contract at a ratification vote, scheduled for 9 a.m. Thursday, August 2, at Union Hall in Tukwila.

Waste Management said garbage drivers will return to work Thursday morning and will begin servicing their regular collection routes.

"We are extremely pleased that we reached an agreement on a new contract that delivers a solid compensation package to our hardworking and professional drivers", said Robin Freedman, Waste Management spokesperson. "Although regular drivers will be back on their routes tomorrow, it will take time to fully recover from this unfortunate situation. We appreciate the community's patience during this time."

"Teamster drivers work hard and deserve fair compensation for the important work that they perform," said Tracey Thompson, Secretary Treasurer for Teamster Local 117. "We are pleased to have negotiated a contract that recognizes the professionalism of our members."

Details of the 6-year deal are being withheld until after the ratification vote, so it's not clear what led to the agreement.

"I don't know if it was the fines that was going to levied against them or what," said Brent Baker, striker.  Waste Management faced more than a million dollars a day in fines alone.

The agreement comes just in time after garbage haulers refused to cross the picket line for eight days, leaving garbage piling up in many areas.

For Andy Young and his fellow Teamsters, the strike was a big gamble. He summed up an uneasy week.

"Nervewracking, scary, but at the same time, we knew what we were fighting for," said Young.

The strike began last week when the Teamsters Local 117 union representing recycling and yard waste drivers stopped work over contract negotiations with Waste Management.

The garbage drivers' union elected to honor the strike. Recycling and yard waste drivers want to be paid as much as garbage drivers. Salaries could increase from $58,000 a year with overtime to as much as $98,000 a year with overtime and benefits in six years.

Seattle mayor turns spotlight on Waste Management fines

With the strike by unionized recycling and garbage truck drivers in its eighth day Wednesday, Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn said Waste Management faced fines for each day of non-collection -- and he asked residents to help report missed pickups.

"This service disruption is creating a hardship for residents and businesses, and we expect Waste Management to fulfill their contract," McGinn said during a news conference Wednesday. "We will be looking for every missed collection by Waste Management and with the public's help we will hold them accountable. I urge both sides to return to the table to reach a mutually acceptable solution."

With Waste Management's one week grace period over, the company would face possible fines up to $1.25 million per day, the city said. Seattle Public Utilities said its inspectors will be out in the field surveying missed collections and assessing penalties fees.

Other cities in the region were also warning Waste Management that fines could be imposed if service isn't restored.

Seattle Public Utilities garbage customers who have Wednesday pickups were being asked to keep any uncollected carts out until Thursday, August 2. Any uncollected carts will be recorded for fines.

With more substitute drivers on the job, Waste Management said it expected to make significant headway in resuming full service. The company had said if striking drivers didn't get back to work, it would hire drivers to replace those on strike, and as of Wednesday had received 250 applications for replacement drivers.

The Teamsters warned that substitute and replacement drivers could pose a safety threat due to lack of experience and unfamiliarity with area roads. The union went so far as to send out robo-calls to customers on Tuesday urging parents to keep their children out of neighborhood streets.

Teamster Local 117 spokesperson Brenda Wiest said of replacement garbage drivers, "Would you want to be the road next to them?"

On Tuesday, a Waste Management spokesperson said, "We want our drivers to come back to work but they've left us no choice."

Per Seattle Mayor McGinn, the public can report missed collections two ways:

* Clicking on the Seattle Public Utilities website at www.seattle.gov/util.

* Via personal twitter accounts. Make sure to include the block where you live (a specific address is not necessary), the hash tag #theymissedme, and a picture of your carts.

For Seattle residents

Starting Wednesday, Seattle residents can throw away some of their garbage for free. Up to six bags of garbage and yard waste can be thrown away without charge at the city's south and north transfer stations: 1350 N. 34th Street in the Fremont-Wallingford area and at 8105 5th Avenue S. in South Park. The north station operates 8:00 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., and the south station's hours have been extended until 9 p.m. for the duration of the strike. Bring identification to show Seattle residence.

All updates are provided at wmnorthwest.com.

Substitute drivers to provide some trash pickup in areas

Waste Management said substitute truck drivers will provide residential trash collection service on Wednesday in Mill Creek, Bothell, Kirkland, Redmond, Seattle, Renton, Maple Valley, Federal Way, Auburn and Algona. Regularly scheduled customers whose normal pick up days are on Wednesday should put their bins out for pick up.

Regularly scheduled customers in Marysville will have only their recycling and yard waste picked up.

Regularly scheduled commercial routes have resumed, those businesses will also have their trash picked up.

The City of Marysville said residential customers whose collection day is Wednesday (August 1), Thursday (August 2), Friday (August 3), Monday (August 6) and Tuesday (August 7) can set out their green garbage carts.  Customers will be notified when recycling and yard waste collection services resume.

Allied Waste customers and the King County Transfer Stations are not affected by the strike. Areas in Seattle served by CleanScapes are also not affected.

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

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.

 

KING 5's Jim Forman, Linda Brill, Eric Wilkinson, Natasha Ryan, Jake Whittenberg and Liza Javier contributed to this report.

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