Thanks to a strong, unified group of workers, members of Teamsters Local 585 near Pittsburgh won the right to keep their union at Waste Management.
"Our members at Waste Management did a great job educating each other about the importance of Teamster representation, and we are continuing this education by reaching out to all the workers at the company," said William Rhoades, President of Local 585 in Washington, Pennsylvania, who drove for Waste Management for 33 years before becoming a full-time Business Agent at Local 585. "The workers' contract expires at the end of October and we will get members involved in the contract campaign."
In early March, the workers voted to retain Local 585 representation.
"We worked collectively as a team to help to inform our brothers of the importance of the union, what the union does to protect the rights of workers, and dispel some of the false information they were being told in an effort to decertify the union," said Chad Jenkins, a 15-year employee, union steward and residential/commercial driver. "We distributed informational fliers, met with employees, answered questions, and kept steadfast in our relentless efforts to keep our bothers informed of the truth."
Jenkins said others played key roles in the victory: stewards Leonard Matschertz and Kenny Gilpin and members Dalton Gilpin, John Adams, Jeff Buchheit and Mark Moninger, along with other drivers and helpers who didn't want to lose the union.
Decertification supporters were under the impression that they would receive raises and would have a cheaper health plan if they voted to leave the union.
"Our message to our brothers was simple: removing the union can cause us to lose our protection from unjust dismissals and we could lose protection from being fired without 'just cause' like others without a union," Jenkins said. "We would end up being considered 'at-will' employees able to be fired at any time for almost any reason. Equality, seniority, guaranteed hours of work and established bids on routes would be a thing of the past."
Jenkins and his co-workers educated other workers about the health plan the company was offering, showing that there would be high out-of-pocket expenses and that the plan was inferior.
"As far as raises were concerned, we also had nothing in writing from the company promising that a raise would be attained after the union was decertified," Jenkins said.
Jenkins has a message to other Teamsters who may face a similar decertification campaign.
"Fight, fight, fight!" he said. "Keeping your brothers and sisters engaged and informed of every step in the process is also important. Give them a voice. A union is only as good as the members and those leading the organization. Open communication, honesty, truth and strength in numbers are key."
"I'm very proud of the Waste Management workers at Local 585 who stood together, educated one another and made a commitment to learn the truth," said Ron Herrera, Director ot the Teamsters Solid Waste, Recycling and Related Industries Division. "The workers' effort at Local 585 is a great example of how they can empower one another and stand up to the lies from the anti-worker, anti-union forces."
The Solid Waste Division was instrumental in helping Local 585 win the election, providing quotations and photos of non-union Waste Management workers and showing the true cost of the company's health and welfare plans.
"We were happy to assist Local 585 with information and we will do this for other local unions facing similar battles," Herrera said. "By working together, we can fight and we can win."