Waste Industry Organizing Power


More than 200 waste workers at five locations, in California, Washington state, Oregon and Ohio, recently voted to become Teamsters.

The workers are employed at the two largest waste companies, Waste Management and Republic Services, and at Recology.

“Waste workers across the country are seeking protections on the job and the workers at Waste Management, Republic Services and at Recology have taken the bold step by forming their union,” said Ron Herrera, International Vice President and Director of the Teamsters Solid Waste, Recycling and Related Industries Division. “We look forward to helping these workers win the strong Teamster contracts they deserve to help them and their families have a more secure future.”

On Sept. 2, 2015, Local 396 won card-check recognition for 125 workers at a recycling facility in Huntington Beach. The facility is owned by Republic Services, which purchased it from Rainbow Disposal Company in 2014. The victory was the result of Local 396’s efforts, under the leadership of Herrera, to organize workers following the overhaul of the waste-collection system in Los Angeles. The local worked with community groups, elected officials and other allies to help get the Los Angeles City Council to approve a plan so that more materials are diverted from landfills and cleaner trucks are used.

Local 396 negotiated labor-peace agreements covering Republic Services workers, which in this recent victory gave Local 396 better access to workers and information to help with the organizing campaign. The agreement also calls for a 90-day time limit for both parties to negotiate a first contract, avoiding the common tactic by employers to drag out negotiations.

At press time, the workers are seeking fair pay, improved benefits, a safer workplace and fair treatment.

Republic Victory

In the other victories, on Aug. 26, 2015, workers at Republic Services in Salem, Ohio voted 9-5 to join Local 92 in Canton. There are 15 workers—residential and commercial drivers—in the bargaining unit.

“The workers remained strong and united despite the employer’s threats that it would close down,” said Doyle Baird, Local 92 President. “Local 377 Secretary-Treasurer Sam Cook and his staff were very helpful to us during the campaign.”

Local 92 represents about 150 Republic workers in Massillon, Ohio. The workers in Salem know what a Teamster contract has meant for the workers in Massillon and they want the same protections.

“The Salem workers want affordable health care, fair wages, respect and safer equipment,” Baird said.

On August 28, drivers at Waste Management in Redding, Calif. voted by a 2-1 margin to join Local 137. The workers approached the local union in mid-July about joining the union, and Local 137 filed for an election on August 3. The vote was 16-8. There are 36 drivers in the bargaining unit.

“Individually, we as drivers had no voice with management to create positive change in our working conditions,” said driver Vincent Smith, a 27-year employee at Waste Management. “With the help of the Teamsters, I look forward to participating in improving our work environment as well as employee satisfaction.”

The workers are concerned about getting treated with respect on the job, safety and improved working conditions.

“This is a great victory for these hardworking employees,” said Dave Hawley, Secretary-Treasurer of Local 137. “It was all about dignity, respect and a safe work environment. We really appreciate the help of the Teamsters Waste Division in helping the workers get the job done.”

Two Wins at Recology

On September 3, by a 3-1 margin, solid waste workers at Recology in McMinnville, Ore. voted to join Local 324.

The drivers voted 18-5 to join Local 324 in Salem. There are 24 drivers in the bargaining unit. The workers are the first at Recology in Oregon to become union members.

“The drivers want respect on the job, more affordable health care, safe vehicles and fair wages,” said Chris Muhs, Local 324 Secretary-Treasurer.

“I am excited to become a Teamster and to work to address all the issues we have on the job,” said driver Paul McCullough. “We stayed united and strong during this campaign because we know that as Teamsters, we will be strong and can fight for positive change.”

The workers approached the union in early August and Local 324 filed for an election on August 6.

In another victory at Recology, in Seattle, Local 174 won voluntary recognition in August for a group of approximately 60 workers at a recycling facility. “The workers want fair wages and improved benefits,” said Rick Hicks, Secretary-Treasurer of Local 174.

In obtaining the voluntary recognition agreement, the union agreed to begin bargaining the sanitation workers’ contract early so that the parties do not run up against the expiration of the existing agreement set to expire March 31, 2016.

Also at Local 174, in mid-September, 25 recycling workers at Renu, a waste company that is a division of North Star, ratified a first contract that boosts wages and benefits dramatically.

The workers’ wages and benefits packages will increase by at least $9.01 to a high of $16.57 per hour. The workers had been paying premiums averaging approximately $225 per month for an inferior company health plan. They will now move to a far superior Teamster health plan with a $50 total monthly premium for the life of the agreement. The workers also will get overtime after eight hours daily and double-time after 11 hours, seniority rights and they move into the Western Conference of Teamsters Pension Plan.

“This shows what a powerful difference it means to work under a Teamsters contract,” Hicks said. “The workers will receive the wages and benefits they deserve for the hard work they do every day serving their community.”