(TUKWILA, Wash.) – Garbage, recycle, and yard waste drivers, employed by Allied Waste/Republic Services, honored picket lines early this morning that were established by striking Local 377 Teamsters from Youngstown, Ohio. Picket lines were set up at the company’s facilities in Seattle, Lynnwood, and Kent/SeaTac.
“We are standing in solidarity with our brothers and sisters in Ohio. We will not allow Republic to trample on the rights of workers in Ohio or anywhere else in the country,” said Mark Williams, a commercial recycle driver at Republic’s facility in Kent/SeaTac.
Known as Republic Services nationally, the company provoked an unfair labor practice strike with Teamsters Local 377 in Youngstown, Ohio, when it violated federal labor law during contract negotiations. Workers in Youngstown have been on strike since March 27. Picket lines were extended to Republic locations in Ohio, Indiana, Michigan, Illinois, and California before reaching Western Washington early this morning.
Republic employees have also recently struck the company in Georgia and Tennessee. In McDonough, Ga., 40 workers went on strike on April 15 over the company’s violation of federal law. In Memphis, Tenn., 175 members of Teamsters Local Union 984 began an unfair labor practice strike on April 16 to protest the company’s violation of federal law.
“Republic’s repeated violations of federal labor law show that the company is more concerned with maximizing corporate profits than with taking care of its customers and its workers,” said Rick Hicks, President of Teamsters Joint Council No. 28 and Secretary-Treasurer of Teamsters Local 174.
In 2012, Republic’s revenues were more than $8.1 billion and the company declared profits of $572 million. The company’s primary shareholder is Microsoft chairman Bill Gates. Gates owns approximately $2.4 billion worth of stock, or 25 percent of the total worth of the company. Michael Larsen, Gates’ investment manager, sits on Republic’s board of directors.
“Bill Gates says he promotes global health, but he refuses to step in and stop Republic from violating workers’ rights and causing a public health crisis in cities across the country,” said Tracey A. Thompson, Secretary-Treasurer of Teamsters Local 117.
In 2012, International Brotherhood of Teamsters General President James P. Hoffa sent Mr. Gates two letters requesting a meeting to discuss Republic’s repeated violations of workers’ rights and the company’s disregard for federal labor law. Mr. Gates did not respond to either request.
During the past year, Republic has forced multiple lockouts and strikes, disrupting trash collection for hundreds of thousands of people across the United States and putting communities at risk.
In Evansville, Ind., Republic locked out 80 workers for six weeks without pay when the workers refused to accept a contract that stripped them of their pension. In Mobile, Ala., Republic reneged on a negotiated contract agreement that would have provided affordable health care to workers and their families. In Memphis, Tenn., Republic deliberately withheld contractually obligated checks from workers.
In Bridgeton, Mo., an ongoing fire at Republic’s landfill has caused an explosion and months of noxious fumes. The fire is burning next to buried radioactive nuclear waste. The Missouri Attorney General has announced a lawsuit against Republic to force it to correct its environmental violations and to provide remedies to help local residents and businesses deal with the ongoing effects of the burning waste.
In numerous locations, Republic is taking up to $140 per month out of workers’ paychecks for health insurance “tobacco” or “spouse” surcharges, even if they don’t smoke or their spouses have no other insurance option. When notified of the errors that can total up to $1,700 per person per year, Republic refuses to return the money to them. Other workers have seen their paychecks shrink now that Republic’s lawyers are exploiting loopholes in the law to pay overtime at rates as low as $6 or $7 per hour.
Teamsters Local Unions 38, 117, 174, and 763 represent over 200 Republic/Allied Waste employees throughout the Puget Sound region. Visit www.teamster.org for more information. Follow us at www.PickUpTheGarbage.com, on Twitter @RepubTeamsters and on Facebook at www.facebook.com/RepublicServicesTeamsters.