(NEW YORK) – Sanitation workers on strike at Republic Services, America’s second-largest trash disposal corporation, protested at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s annual Goalkeepers event at Lincoln Center today. Workers and their supporters held banners that read, “Bill Gates Treats Kids Like Trash”; “Bill Gates’ Republic Services Treats Workers Like Garbage”; and “We Pick Up The Trash, Bill Gates Gets The Cash.”
The Republic Services sanitation workers who are on strike in Marshfield, Mass., called on Bill Gates to change the company’s mistreatment of its workers. Bill Gates is Republic Services’ biggest shareholder and his personal investment manager, Michael Larson, sits on Republic’s Board of Directors.
The Boston-area workers voted to be represented by Teamsters Local 25 last year. They have been on strike since late August, 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 for a family with one adult and one child, according to the Economic Policy Institute’s Family Budget Calculator.
Republic Services posted $10 billion in revenues and $1 billion in profit in 2018. Bill Gates, as Republic’s principal shareholder, receives over $100 million in stock dividends annually.
“Gates claims to care about inequality,” said Bernie Egan-Mullen, one of the striking Republic employees. “But he’s making hundreds of millions of dollars as the largest shareholder in a company that refuses to provide us with livable wages and health care that our families can afford.”
“Sanitation work is the fifth-most deadly job in America. These workers literally put their lives on the line every day to protect the public health, yet they are struggling to afford the company health care,” said Sean O’Brien, President of Teamsters Local 25 and Teamsters International Vice President. “Bill Gates’ hypocrisy is unconscionable, and that’s why we’re here today, to call him out on it.”
The striking Boston-area workers have extended their pickets to about a dozen other Republic Services facilities, where hundreds of fellow Republic employees have honored their picket lines and refused to cross. Picket line extensions have been to San Diego, Anaheim, San Jose, Huntington Beach, and several other California locations.
Massachusetts is not the only location where Republic Services employees are fighting back. In Cumming, Georgia, workers at Republic recently went on a one-day strike to protest Republic’s violations of federal laws that protect workers’ rights. They extended their picket line to other Republic locations in Georgia and Indiana, where fellow workers refused to cross the lines.
“Sanitation workers across the U.S. are sticking together, to show Republic Services that they will not stand for anything less than respect and dignity on the job and a fair return on their work,” said Chuck Stiles, Assistant Director of the Teamsters Solid Waste and Recycling Division. “More and more, members of the working class are sending the message to billionaires like Bill Gates that our solidarity is with each other – regardless of race, gender or country of origin – and that an injury to one is an injury to all.”
Recent calculations show that workers in 10 cities with a combined population of over 1 million residents are currently in contract negotiations with Republic Services, and that Teamsters in 31 cities with a combined population of over 6 million residents have the right to honor picket lines.