Organizing in Solid Waste


Teamsters have a long history of standing up for waste workers. They not only work in one of the most dangerous industries in America, they are often seen as “disposable” employees by their bosses.

Recently, though, the Teamsters Union has been organizing waste workers at units around the country. Four recent organizing victories in the solid waste industry point to a renewed interest in unions by workers who are often denied economic justice.

“The Teamsters Union continues to build on our successes. We look forward to more successful wins for workers to come,” said Bob Morales, Director of the Teamsters Solid Waste, Recycling and Related Industries Division. “We will continue to work hard to organize waste and recycling workers across the country so that they receive the fair pay, decent benefits and improved working conditions they deserve for the extremely difficult job they do.”

Drivers and mechanics at Waste Management in Carlsbad, Calif. recently voted to join Local 683 in San Diego. The election took place on July 26. There are about 80 workers in the bargaining unit.

“The workers are seeking strong Teamster representation—the company treats their people bad,” said Todd Mendez, Local 683 Secretary-Treasurer. “The supervisors bully their workers. We will work hard to negotiate a strong first contract that will help put a stop to the mistreatment that is taking place.”

Workers at the Colton Disposal Transfer Station and MRF (Material Recycling Facility) voted 10-1 to join Local 396 in Covina, Calif. The election was held on August 12. There are 11 workers in the bargaining unit. Colton Disposal is owned by Republic Services, the second largest waste hauler in the national.

“The main issue is the workers’ voices were not being heard,” said Victor Mineros, organizer and business agent with Local 386. “They have also not received pay raises, or if they had, raises were minimal.”

“We welcome the new workers and we will work hard to negotiate a strong, first contract for them which will give them the strong voice they need and deserve, as well as respect and dignity,” said Ron Herrera, Local 396 Secretary-Treasurer.

Workers at Waste Management in Menomonee Falls, Wisconsin have voted to join Local 200 in Milwaukee. The employees work for Waste Management’s Port-O-Let Division, where they deliver and service portable toilets. The election took place August 16 and there are four workers in the bargaining unit. The vote was 3-1 in favor to join Local 200.

“The workers are seeking fair wages,” said Tom Benvenuto, a Local 200 Business Agent. “They want to be part of the larger group of Waste Management workers we represent, the 185 members in the Hauling Division.”

Waste workers with Casella Waste Systems in Brentwood, N.H., will now be represented by the Teamsters Union, after Local 633 in Manchester, N.H., secured a card-check agreement. The workers overwhelmingly signed up to become Teamster members. The 17 new members work as waste drivers, helpers, transfer station operators and mechanics.

“Casella is a bigger organization than we were used to; it’s publicly traded. We thought we should organize for the support to get us through the transition and keep us strong as a group. We wanted representation,” said John Lavigne, a head mechanic in Brentwood who maintains 21 waste trucks.