A Message from Teamsters Waste and Recycling Division Director Chuck Stiles:
First and foremost, I want to send my sincere gratitude and support to all the waste workers who are currently on the front lines keeping our country safe during this unprecedented public health crisis.
Please know the Waste and Recycling Division is working very closely with locals across the country to make sure you are protected from exposure while on the job. Your safety is our top priority. That is why last Monday the Division sent letters to the CEOs of the “Big Three”—Waste Management, Republic Services, and Waste Connections—asking each company to provide details on the steps they’re taking to ensure the health and safety of sanitation workers. In each letter, we also requested specific changes to the company’s attendance policies and paid time off (PTO) for members who have been affected.
Waste Management contacted the Division on Wednesday, confirming receipt of the letter and promising to send a response. Their response was received on Thursday and contained many positive proposals including job security, guaranteed pay and excused absences for workers during the crisis. While not perfect, Waste Management has made a good-faith effort to address our concerns.
The Division has also been in communication with Waste Connections, and has received assurances that the company would respond to our letter.
Republic Services, however, has not formally communicated with the Division regarding the letter. The company did send out “guidelines” regarding PTO during the pandemic to various Teamster local unions, but even these fall short of what needs to be done to protect worker health and safety. More disturbingly, however, is what Republic has done when workers voiced their own safety concerns. Greg Dowis, a Republic Services solid waste truck driver in Cumming, Georgia, was suspended on Friday, March 20 after raising safety concerns. This company, which generates billions in revenue every year, continues to prioritize profit over people.
In addition to the “Big Three” companies, the Division has also provided all 154 waste locals with a generic letter to contact smaller employers outlining the same requests and recommendations to ensure the proper precautions are in place for the health and well-being of all of our members. We have been in close contact with local unions across the U.S. and Canada to better address your concerns. We are diligently monitoring and responding to any issues that arise in the workplace on the local level.
Although the world around us is rapidly changing, our commitment to your health, safety and livelihoods has not changed and your work as vanguards of the community is more important than ever.
The Teamsters Waste and Recycling Division is fully committed to ensuring that you are protected, your contracts are honored, and your working conditions are safe. Wherever there is poor sanitation, illness will spread. That’s why your work is so important and that’s why our members are the true heroes of this pandemic. I want to thank all of you for your dedication, courage and strength.