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Historic Victory

Local 728 Fights, Wins on Behalf of Sanitation Workers

Back in the mid-1990s, sanitation workers in DeKalb County, Ga. tried to organize their union, but the county fought them. The result: they have been working without union representation for nearly 20 years. That will change soon, after a vote by the DeKalb County commissioners.

“I’m overjoyed,” said Robert Pruitt, a sanitation driver/crew leader with the county. “It’s been a long time coming. It’s been a long fight. Now I’m feeling great.”

After years of hard work by Local 728 in Atlanta, more than 4,000 workers in DeKalb County can join unions, including more than 400 waste workers who will become Teamsters.

“This vote paves the way for thousands of workers to join unions and we are excited that more than 400 sanitation workers will become members of Local 728,” said Randy Brown, Local 728 President. “Our future members are seeking a safer workplace and getting treated with respect and dignity, and the Teamsters will deliver that.”

In early October, the DeKalb County Commissioners unanimously passed an ordinance allowing county employees to organize.

Although the future Local 728 members had the support of their company’s CEO and county commissioners, it took months to find a solution to the state’s No Rights at Work laws. State law does not give public sector workers the right to collectively bargain.

“This is a massive, historic organizing victory in the South that opens the way for thousands of public sector workers to join the labor movement,” Local 728 Organizer Ben Speight said. “There hasn’t been something this big in decades. This took place after sanitation workers in Memphis fought for justice 45 years ago, and our members remembered those workers’ struggles as they themselves fought for better lives here in Atlanta.”

The ordinance takes effect Jan. 1, 2014. The 400 workers who have already signed membership applications will become members of Local 728 that day, and Local 728 has been busy signing up more members.

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