Teamsters Demand Republic, Bill Gates Support Safety for Essential Workers
(WASHINGTON) – The International Brotherhood of Teamsters today released an informational video highlighting the hundreds of millions of dollars Republic Services has spent on stock buybacks that fund Republic’s top executives, all while failing to provide the necessary safety equipment and livable wages to its frontline workers amid the pandemic.
The union is running advertisements nationwide with the video on digital and social media channels to educate consumers whose municipalities use Republic about the company. The union represents about 20 percent of the company’s work force and is supporting tens of thousands of other Republic workers who are fighting for safe working conditions and a voice on the job.
Along with the video, the union is also launching a petition authored by Republic employees calling on Gates to use his power as Republic’s top investor (with holdings equal to nearly one third of Republic’s stock) to ensure the company provides clear policies including guaranteed quarantine pay and workplace safety standards.
Republic Services is the second largest private sanitation company in the country and posted revenues of $2.45 billion for Q2. Instead of investing in the business and supporting its workers with better salaries, new trucks and safety equipment, Republic Services has chosen to support its wealthy shareholders through stock buybacks. With fewer shares available to the public, Republic’s share price goes up along with shareholders’ earnings per share—earning the company and its wealthy stakeholders millions.
Just last quarter, Republic paid its shareholders $129 million in dividends. Meanwhile, Republic workers, who have been begging the company to invest in their safety throughout the pandemic, continue to find themselves with substandard sanitation gear and low wages.
“The COVID-19 pandemic is far from over. It’s time Republic Services stop investing in billionaires and start supporting its essential workers and those most at risk during this crisis,” said Chuck Stiles, Teamsters Waste Division Director. “Republic Services paid its shareholders four times more in dividends last quarter than it has spent on PPE for its 35,000 employees over the course of the pandemic. While major stakeholders like Bill Gates continue to add to their billions, sanitation workers in one of the most dangerous jobs in this country are demanding a real plan from management to protect them from COVID, including regular deep cleaning of the facilities and equipment and sufficient paid sick time for all workers.”
Bill Gates, who owns nearly one-third of Republic Services and is one of the wealthiest people in the world with a net worth of $113.7 billion, is estimated to receive more than $176 million in dividends from Republic by the end of 2020. Amid the pandemic, Gates has been at the forefront of the conversation to develop a COVID-19 vaccine and strategize how the U.S. and global community can best combat the deadly virus. Meanwhile, Republic Services workers are increasingly fearful for their health, as well as the safety and well-being of their friends and family they come in contact with.
“Sanitation work is the fifth most dangerous job in the country, and the pandemic has only increased our risk—we share small spaces in garbage trucks and processing facilities, and dispatchers work less than 3 feet apart in offices,” said Demetrius Tart, a sanitation worker at Republic Services in Cumming, Georgia. “Meanwhile, Republic won’t even tell us if someone we worked with has a suspected case so we can get tested ourselves. Workers like me have proposed safety steps and offered to help. I’ve even personally offered to provide wall-mounted thermometers and safety equipment at my facility, but management never even responded. They’re too busy lining the pockets of Bill Gates, who is making millions off my work at Republic.”
The Teamsters, which represent more than 7,000 Republic Services workers across the country, have been demanding PPE for sanitation workers since the start of the pandemic. In their newly released digital ad, the Teamsters’ analysis shows that Bill Gates could provide every frontline worker with N95 masks, face shields, protective suits and two weeks of quarantine pay for sick workers for one year—all for about $154 million. This is less than .01 percent of Gates’ total wealth and less than 1 percent of the $11.5 billion Gates has made in the few months since the pandemic began.
In addition to failing to provide sanitation workers with the proper safety equipment, Republic Services has denied sick pay to workers forced to quarantine by the company. Republic, which requires two negative tests before allowing quarantined employees to return to work, is denying sick pay to quarantined workers who do not test positive for COVID-19. In order to guarantee two weeks of quarantine pay to every frontline worker this year, it would only cost the company around $52 million, or 8.6 percent of the $600 million Republic is spending on stock buybacks in 2020.
Founded in 1903, the International Brotherhood of Teamsters represents 1.4 million hardworking men and women throughout the United States, Canada and Puerto Rico. Visit www.teamster.org for more information. Follow us on Twitter @Teamsters and “like” us on Facebook at www.facebook.com/teamsters.