(SEATTLE) – Striking Republic Services sanitation workers from Massachusetts continued their picket line extensions for the third day in a row, at three different Republic Services facilities in the greater Seattle area this morning.
The picket line extensions to four Republic Services facilities over the last three days caused the company to cancel waste and recycling collection operations in at least ten cities in the Seattle area. Hundreds of local Republic Services workers – members of Teamsters Local 38, Local 117, Local 174, and Local 763 – have exercised their right to refuse to cross picket lines.
The striking workers, members of Teamsters Local 25 in Boston, have been on strike since August, after Republic refused to offer them a contract with a livable wage and affordable health care. On average, they 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.
To date, striking members of Teamsters Local 25 have extended picket lines to over 15 cities, and hundreds of Republic Services employees at those locations have refused to cross the picket lines.
Microsoft founder and Seattle-area resident Bill Gates is Republic Services’ biggest shareholder. His personal investment manager, Michael Larson, sits on Republic’s Board of Directors.
“This company is risking doing permanent damage to its reputation,” said Sean O’Brien, President of Teamsters Local 25 and Teamsters International Vice President. “When Bill Gates gets over $100 million in stock dividends from Republic each year, but front-line trash collectors are begging for a living wage and affordable health care, workers are going to get fed up and say: No more. Republic workers in other cities have also gone on strike, to protest the company’s violations of federal labor laws.”
“Sanitation work is the fifth-most deadly job in America,” O’Brien said. “These workers put their lives on the line every day to protect the public health. Yet Gates and Republic executives have chosen to pay themselves outrageous sums of money instead of providing trash collectors a fair return on the dangerous work they do in the streets every day.”
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.