Kent residents didn’t have garbage, recycling or yard waste picked up for two days last week because of picket lines by union members at Republic Services in support of striking sanitation workers in Massachusetts.
The city of Kent posted a Facebook message on Oct. 3-4 that there would be no service. Customers who did not have service on either day could put out double the amount at no extra charge on their normal pick up day this week.
The city of Kent contracts with Republic Services to provide garbage, recycling and yard waste service. The contract was recently extended through 2029.
Approximately 250 Republic Services/Allied Waste workers throughout the Puget Sound area—members of Teamsters Local 38, Local 117, Local 174 and Local 763—exercised their right to honor the picket line, according to a news release from Teamsters 25 in Boston representing workers in Marshfield, Mass.
Workers in the Boston area began their strike on Aug. 29 after Republic refused to agree to a contract with a livable wage and affordable health care. On average, the striking sanitation workers are paid 40 percent below what it takes to make a living wage in Massachusetts for a family with one adult and one child, according to the Economic Policy Institute’s Family Budget Calculator as reported in the Teamsters 25 news release.
“Republic Services set a record last year with almost $3 billion in profits,” said striking Republic employee Bernie Egan-Mullen. “But instead of providing safe working conditions and industry-standard health care and retirement plans, the company is using its record profits to pay out huge salaries to its executives and huge dividends to its shareholders.”
Republic Services released the following statement Oct. 3:
“Today’s temporary work stoppage at our Bellevue, Kent and Lynnwood locations is related to a labor issue in Massachusetts that has nothing to do with any Washington employees. Republic Services is servicing critical customers in the affected areas today and will pick up any missed collections as soon as possible.
“We respect our employees and their right to union representation, and we expect similar fairness in return. Unfortunately, a small faction within the Teamsters organization is trying to use customer disruptions here as a tool to pressure a Republic subsidiary on the other side of the country.
“We will take the steps necessary to minimize inconvenience to our local customers caused by the Teamsters’ pressure tactics, and we will continue to offer our employees a highly competitive wage and benefit package with excellent wages and quality medical, dental, vision, AD&D and disability insurance, a company-matched 401(k) retirement plan and generous paid time off.”
The Teamsters decided to picket in the Seattle area because Microsoft founder Bill Gates is Republic Services’ biggest shareholder. His personal investment manager, Michael Larson, sits on Republic’s Board of Directors. Gates lives in Medina, east of Seattle.
“That’s why we’re here in Seattle,” Egan-Mullen said. “Bill Gates gets over $100 million in stock dividends alone from Republic each year, yet meanwhile we are on the picket line for a living wage.”
The Teamsters represent more than 7,000 Republic Services workers across the country, according to the union. Recently, hundreds of Republic sanitation workers in Northern and Southern California represented by Teamsters Local 350 and 396 voted overwhelmingly to authorize a strike against the company.
Last month, Republic sanitation workers represented by Teamsters Local 728 went on strike in Cumming, Georgia, to protest the company’s violations of federal laws that protect workers’ rights.