Garbage and recycling pickup disrupted by strike

Jul 26, 2012

For many people in King and Snohomish counties, garbage and recycling are not getting picked up because of a strike that began Wednesday. Recycling drivers walked off the job over what they say are unfair labor practices by the company, Waste Management. Garbage haulers also stopped work today in solidarity.

Waste Management says about 220,000 households face disruptions if the strike continues. Parts of northern and central Seattle are not affected because another company, Cleanscapes, hauls garbage there.

Waste Management recycling drivers have been working without a contract since the end of May. They say Waste Management made its final offer and then walked away from the bargaining table. Jay Bleakley is a recycling driver who was part of the bargaining team.

"If they'd come back to the table and negotiate with us, then maybe we could get something done," Bleakley said. "But when they keep walking away from the table, like they have the last three times with us, we can't get anything done unless they're sitting across and bargaining with us."

The drivers have filed a number of complaints with the National Labor Relations Board that the agency is investigating. Waste Management spokeswoman Robin Freedman says the company is willing to go back to the negotiating table if the union drops the strike.

"We’re willing to go back to the table to talk about solutions and have the membership vote on the compensation package we put forth," Freedman said.

The company proposes that drivers get on average total compensation of $98,000 after six years. That includes the amount Waste Management would pay for health insurance and other benefits.  

Bleakley says it’s not all about money. He says the drivers want Waste Management to make other changes – like not reprimanding workers who get injured on the job. If the strike continues more than a week, Seattle Public Utilities can fine Waste Management a quarter of a million dollars a day.