Waste Management garbage haulers go on strike

A strike Wednesday by Waste Management garbage haulers has the potential to impact more than 1,300 commercial customers and 135 multi-family customers in Kent. The drivers went on strike at about 10:30 a.m.

A strike Wednesday by Waste Management garbage haulers has the potential to impact more than 1,300 commercial customers and 135 multi-family customers in Kent.

The drivers went on strike at about 10:30 a.m.

Contract talks between Teamsters Local 174 and Waste Management officials broke off April 6 and no further talks had been scheduled. The drivers have been working without a contract since March 31.

“In spite of our best efforts Waste Management is refusing to come back to the table to bargain in good faith,” said Local 174 secretary-treasurer, Rick Hicks on the union Web site. “We are taking a measured action to persuade Waste Management to correct its illegal acts and to minimize the impact on the public.”

The more than 350 garbage haulers serve about one million customers throughout King and Snohomish counties.

Union members voted March 28 to authorize a strike against the company if talks halted and no contract agreement could be reached.

Waste Management officials said the offer they made to the union on April 1 remains their final offer.

“If the drivers choose to strike beyond (Wednesday), we will begin implementing our contingency plans immediately and I will communicate a phased in approach to make sure that we are as close to normal (services) by Monday,” said Susan Robinson, director of public sector services for Waste Management, in an e-mail Wednesday morning to Kent city officials.

Robinson said last week that the company is ready with replacement workers if the drivers go on strike.

“If the union does choose to strike, our Green Team of Waste Management drivers is on alert,” Robinson said. “We will begin immediately to bring these drivers in from across the country. These drivers are among our best and they work in unique situations such as this, as well as natural disasters requiring an additional work force.”

Meanwhile, the strike is not expected to impact Kent single-family homes served by Allied Waste. Garbage drivers for Allied Waste voted April 11 to approve a new four-year contract.

“We have been in contact with Allied Waste as well and no impacts to Allied Waste customers in Kent are anticipated expected at this time,” said Kelly Peterson, city environmental conservation supervisor, who oversees the garbage contracts, in an e-mail. “They (Allied officials) will stay in contact with the city in the event impacts are happening or are expected.”

Allied Waste contracts with Kent to serve nearly 16,200 single-family homes. The company serves nearly 123,000 residential and commercial customers in King and Snohomish counties.

Local 174 spokesman Michael Gonzales said in an interview last week that there are about 12 significant modifications to the contract by the company that the union wants to address. He also said company officials had refused to come to the table to bargain in good faith.

“If they do that, we can get something done,” Gonzales said.

The contract offer from Waste Management includes a wage increase of $1 per hour in the first year and increases of 40 cents to 50 cents per hour in each year of the five-year contract, Robinson said. The average hourly wage for a driver is $26.29 per hour or more than $70,000 per year with an average of six overtime hours per week.

The company also proposes to increase pension contributions from $14,060 per year in 2010 to $15,101 per year by the end of the contract.

Drivers would have to pay increases of $20 per month in health and welfare contributions with a proposed increase to $50 per month from $30 per month.

Waste Management, based in Houston, Texas, is a large, multi-state company that serve millions of customers nationwide.

For more information, go to the union Web site at www.seattletrashwatch.com or the Waste Management site at www.wmnorthwest.com.

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