Waste Management, Teamsters still not back at the bargaining table



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Posted on July 28, 2012 at 5:16 PM

Updated Sunday, Jul 29 at 6:57 PM

The union representing Waste Management truck drivers said Saturday that there are still no plans to return to the bargaining table, four days after Teamsters Local 117 began a strike.

“We are still 100 percent unified,” said Brent Barrett, yard waste driver and union steward. “We will stay out here as long as it take to get a fair contract.”

After four days without trash picup, several local restaurants report overflowing dumpsters and heaping trash piles.

“Having this land on our busy weekend is rough,” said Amanda Lee, kitchen manager at Beachside Café along Alki Beach. The café has a full dumpster with ten-day-old food scraps at the bottom.

“We have been told to take this to the dump, but we don’t have the ability,” she said. “we don’t know what we are going to do here soon.”

Waste Management says restaurants are considered "critical services" and that replacement drivers brought in by the company are prioritizing food establishments as well as hospitals and daycare centers.

Lee said the company promised to come out on Thursday. “That did not happen as you can see," she said.

On Friday, Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn sent a letter to Waste Management officials warning the company of financial penalties should it fail to provide garbage and recycling pick-up as required under its contract with the city.

"Should the service interruption continue we will take the necessary steps ... to protect our ratepayers and encourage restoration of service," McGinn wrote.

Such steps could include a $4,500 per day fine against the company if it fails to provide contracted services. If the disruption continues past Aug. 1, Waste Management could be fined $250,000 per day, the mayor's letter said. A separate letter from the head of Seattle Public Utilities said that a combination of penalties and fees could cost Waste Management $1.25 million per day after Aug. 1.

The company said it was bringing replacement drivers to the region to haul garbage and recycling from communities it services in King and Snohomish Counties.

The union has said repeatedly that the picket lines would end if they believe the company was coming to the table in good faith.

Waste Management said it is willing to talk, but only if the strike ends first.

What customers need to know

Waste Management advises customers not to put any waste bins out, as there won't be any drivers to pick it up. They will pick up double loads next week, if the strike ends.

Garbage truck drivers are honoring the recycling drivers' picket lines, resulting in the complete stoppage of service.

Get the complete garbage and reycling pick-up schedule on the Waste Management website (www.wmnorthwest.com) 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.

Negotiations between the Teamsters and Waste Management will continue on Saturday.

Allied Waste customers and the King County Transer 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.