Seattle Drivers and Warehouse Workers Are First to Unionize at the Recycling Start-Up
(TUKWILA, Wash.) – A group of more than 50 workers at Ridwell has voted overwhelmingly to join Teamsters Local 117. The drivers and warehouse workers, who collect hard-to-dispose materials from homes in King and Pierce counties, came together to gain a voice at work and address concerns over wages, benefits, and working conditions. With this vote, these workers became the first unionized employees at Ridwell.
“We are excited to welcome Ridwell employees to the Teamsters,” said John Scearcy, Secretary-Treasurer of Local 117. “These workers provide an invaluable service to their communities and the environment by handling dangerous materials while exposed to the elements. With Ridwell being an employer whose focus is environmental protection, we look forward to helping these new Teamsters negotiate a strong contract that offers them protections and fair treatment as well. It’s only when we fight for labor rights and environmental sustainability that we are able to build a fair and just future for workers.”
Ridwell is a recycling start-up that focuses on responsibly reusing and disposing of hard-to-recycle items like batteries, lightbulbs, and plastic film. Since its founding in Washington State in 2018, Ridwell has expanded to Calif., Colo., Minn., Ore., and Texas.
“I have been working at Ridwell for over a year. I want a union so we can have a say in our experiences and conditions. I want safety for everyone, respect for our time and schedule, and fair wages,” said Baylie Freeman, a driver who was part of the worker-led organizing committee.
Since the workers began organizing, Ridwell has remained neutral on the question of unionization, noting they will respect the choice of their employees.
“Ridwell is an example of a conscientious employer that respects their workers’ decision to stand in solidarity and join a union,” Scearcy said. “They set an excellent example, which worker-exploiting and
union-busting industry giants like Amazon and Starbucks should follow.”
“It’s us, the drivers and warehouse staff, who make Ridwell run,” said Keegan Ditto, a warehouse worker who has been at Ridwell since September 2020. “I want us to have the right to negotiate a union contract, which will give us a say in our wages, benefits and working conditions.”
Teamsters Local 117 represents 17,000 Washington workers in diverse industries, over 350
of which work in the waste and recycle industry serving King County and surrounding areas.