WOODINVILLE, Wash. -- The Washington Utilities and Transportation Commission (WUTC) is investigating what happened, when and why during the Waste Management strike.
Meanwhile, Waste Management is asking the WUTC to allow it to miss garbage and recycling pickups without penalty during strikes.
Not only does Waste Management want to avoid penalties for non-pickups, it wants the policy to apply retroactively, before the eight-day strike began on July 25.
Many customers said penalties are the only way to compel the company to pickup anything during a strike. And customers in unincorporated areas, like Woodinville, said they feel they were discriminated against because the penalty there is much less than the millions that could be imposed by contract cities like Seattle.
"Waste Management is highly motivated to provide service to contract cities because of their ability and threat to levy fines," said King County Councilmember Kathy Lambert. "That leaves unincorporated areas without service, and that is not okay with me."
Rob Sherman, Waste Management's Director of Operations, told Commissioners the company prioritized pickups beginning with "critical" accounts such as hospitals, followed by commercial accounts like restaurants and doctors' offices. They also sent trucks to places with high density that were close to transfer stations.
Lambert blasted the company. "The parameters they used -- density and proximity -- both of those leave unincorporated areas out!" she said.
Reading from a letter by King County Executive Dow Constantine, Solid Waste Director Kevin Kiernan said, "I urge the WUTC to conduct a thorough investigation and use its regulatory authority to ensure that residents and businesses whose collections were disrupted are made whole."
Many customers said they want refunds for the days their recycling and garbage weren't collected.
The WUTC has no deadline but is moving quickly to complete its investigation.
"This situation should have never happened," said Sherman. "Our customers should not have had to bear the burden of this service disruption. We are deeply apologetic."
He added commercial recycling pickup will be back on track by Friday, residential recycling by Monday.
UTC says it has received 51 inquiries from Waste Management's customers regarding service during the strike. There are several ways you can send in comments to the UTC.
-- By Letter: Washington Utilities and Transportation Commission, P.O. Box 47250 Olympia, Wash. 98504
-- Online: www.utc.wa.gov/comment
-- Email: email@example.com
-- Phone: 1-888-333-9882