The $10 Billion Corporation Refuses to Discuss Workers’ Concerns About Excessive Overtime, Pandemic Safety and Harassment by Managers
(SEATTLE) – Sanitation workers on strike at Republic Services [NYSE: RSG] in San Diego extended their picket line to four Republic facilities in Seattle, Bellevue, Lynwood and Kent, Wash. today. Over 300 Teamsters who work at these trash and recycling facilities are refusing to cross the picket line.
Over 250 workers at the $10 billion corporation’s San Diego facilities went on strike on December 17, 2021.
“These employees have worked throughout the pandemic to keep San Diego clean and safe, and all they are asking is for Republic Services to bargain fairly with them for their new contract,” said Jaime Vasquez, Secretary-Treasurer of Teamsters Local 542 in San Diego.
“Our members didn’t want to go on strike – they are ready and willing to clean up the city under fair conditions,” Vasquez continued. “Republic is refusing to listen to its employees’ concerns and make changes. Our members felt they had no choice but to take their strike line elsewhere to communicate to the company that it needs to listen to its frontline workers who do the work that earns them billions.”
Republic Services is the second-largest trash collection and landfill corporation in America. In 2020, Republic Services earned over $10 billion, with $1.2 billion in net profit, while its CEO’s total compensation totaled over $12 million. Republic has spent more than $736 million buying back its stock in recent years. Republic’s largest shareholder is Microsoft founder Bill Gates, and Gates’ investment advisor sits on Republic’s board of directors.
Vasquez continued, “The equipment is sitting here and our members are ready to go with a fair contract. When the trash piles up, that hurts our communities and the neighborhoods that our members live in, too. This doesn’t have to be happening – in our opinion, the County should look into whether it can declare a state of emergency and take over Republic Services’ equipment. Republic is effectively a middle-man sucking taxpayer dollars out of the County in order to enrich its shareholders like Bill Gates. Our members would be happy to work for the County directly and go back to providing this public service to everyone.”
Rafael Mejia, member of Teamsters Local 542 who works for Republic in San Diego said, “We put our lives on the line every day to protect the public health, doing the sixth-deadliest job in America. When we went on strike as a wake-up call to Republic, the company brought in strike breakers at higher pay than it’s offering to pay us. And it was a slap in the face to learn that Republic gave its board members hundreds of thousands of dollars in cash and stock this week.”
On January 5, Republic board members received their annual restricted stock award for 2022. Each received stock worth $230,000, which is in addition to the approximately $100,000 in cash they receive for attending 6 board meetings a year.
Chuck Stiles, Director of the Teamsters Solid Waste & Recycling Division, said, “Republic pays shareholders like Bill Gates hundreds of millions of dollars in dividends every year. This company can afford to treat its workers with dignity and respect, and ensure they are safe on the job. If they won’t do this, the County should take over and run this service as a public entity.”
Stiles continued, “This strike and these extensions show a pattern of disrespect that Republic has for its workers and the communities they serve. Just before this strike by workers in San Diego, workers who are members of Teamsters Local 396 went on strike in Orange County and extended their picket line to New Orleans before the company finally bargained fair contracts.”
“We apologize to all the customers who are understandably upset,” said Vasquez. “Our members are public service workers who want desperately to be able to get back into their trucks and clean up their communities. All we ask is that Republic Services recognizes the value of its essential workers who have kept this community safe, clean and protected for nearly two years of this pandemic.”
The International Brotherhood of Teamsters represents more than 7,000 Republic workers nationwide. Teamster members who work for Republic Services are in negotiations for contracts that expired in 2021 in seven locations: San Diego, San Francisco, San Jose, Stockton, and Richmond, Calif.; Seattle; and New Orleans.