I am happy to report that since my last update we have been in consistent, productive communications with many of your employers. After sending letters out to major employers last month outlining best practices related to COVID-19, I have been in regular contact with Waste Management Inc. (WMI) and Waste Connections to ensure our members are protected on the job. Division representatives and local unions have also been in direct contact with Recology, a large Teamster employer in California. All three companies have engaged in an ongoing dialogue with the Teamsters and promptly took the proactive steps needed to keep workers and their families safe.
WMI has committed to paying employees for 40 hours a week throughout the crisis even if they are unable to work, as well as in the event there is no work to be done. WMI has also agreed to allow employees who have been “exposed” to COVID-19 to remain at home for 14 days with pay, and has not demanded positive COVID-19 tests for employees or family members/friends. Recology and Waste Connections have adopted similar policies, with the addition at Waste Connections of a $2 an hour increase in pay, lasting for the duration of the crisis.
We also received a response from Advanced Disposal. The company outlined a number of common-sense safety measures, but unfortunately has not yet changed its attendance policies. Smaller companies received the same guidelines in letters mailed out by waste locals last month as well. While no company has done everything they should, they continue to negotiate with the IBT and its member local unions.
These companies have done a respectable job addressing many of our initial concerns, and I commend them for keeping in regular contact with our division, as well as for their cooperation, throughout this pandemic. It is a stark difference compared to the failures currently taking place at Republic Services (Republic). After failing to reply to the union’s initial letter of demands to address the safety concerns, Republic found themselves the target of an onslaught of negative press, both nationally and locally
In response to the negative media, and in an effort to save public face, the company responded with a video message over Easter weekend from COO Jon Vander Ark that did little more than provide vague reassurances and confuse an already frustrated workforce. Republic is attempting to exploit the COVID-19 crisis for its economic gain, on the backs of its workers. It was a poor attempt at responding to workers’ concerns and did nothing to resolve the ongoing problems. Republic should immediately engage in negotiations with the IBT, commit to paying workers 40 hours a week, provide every frontline worker with sufficient PPE including gloves and masks, and ensure that employees who have been exposed to COVID-19 can take paid leave without burning their existing PTO, without needing to provide difficult-to-obtain documentation.
To any member who is currently struggling because of the greed at Republic Services, please know we will continue to fight for you until this company does the right thing and protects its workers. We hope you will stay informed through teamster.org and on our Facebook page.
Lastly, I want to thank every member of the Solid Waste and Recycling Division for standing together these past two months. This crisis has shed light on the important work you do for the community every day, and the service you provide for the entire country. As we prepare to mark Workers’ Memorial Day tomorrow, please take a moment to remember our brothers and sisters who have been lost or injured on the job. Never forget the value of your labor, and always remember that we are stronger together.