(SEATTLE) – Sanitation workers on strike at Republic Services [NYSE: RSG] in Marshfield, Mass., extended their picket line to Seattle this morning. Approximately 250 Republic Services/Allied Waste workers throughout the Puget Sound area—members of Teamsters Local 38, Local 117, Local 174 and Local 763—exercised their right to honor the picket line.
The striking workers, members of Teamsters Local 25 in Boston, began their strike on August 29 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 in Massachusetts for a family with one adult and one child, according to the Economic Policy Institute’s Family Budget Calculator.
“Republic Services set a record last year with almost $3 billion in profits,” said striking Republic employee Bernie Egan-Mullen. “But instead of providing safe working conditions and industry-standard health care and retirement plans, the company is using its record profits to pay out huge salaries to its executives and huge dividends to its shareholders.”
Microsoft founder Bill Gates is Republic Services’ biggest shareholder. His personal investment manager, Michael Larson, sits on Republic’s Board of Directors.
“That’s why we’re here in Seattle,” Egan-Mullen said. “Bill Gates gets over $100 million in stock dividends alone from Republic each year, yet meanwhile we are on the picket line for a living wage.”
“Sanitation work is the fifth-most dangerous job in America. Sanitation workers are two times as likely to die on the job as police officers and nearly seven times more likely to die on the job than firefighters,” said Sean O’Brien, President of Teamsters Local 25 and Teamsters International Vice President. “This company has forced quite a few strikes in cities across America over the past few years, when it has violated federal labor laws and has refused to address conditions of inequality and unsafe conditions.”
The Teamsters represent over 7,000 Republic Services workers across the country. Recently, hundreds of Republic sanitation workers in Northern and Southern California represented by Teamsters Local 350 and 396 voted overwhelmingly to authorize a strike against the company.
Last month, Republic sanitation workers represented by Teamsters Local 728 went on strike in Cumming, Georgia, to protest the company’s violations of federal laws that protect workers’ rights.
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.