Seattle area garbage haulers returning to work


by LINDA BRILL / ELISA HAHN/ KING 5 News and Staff

Posted on April 22, 2010 at 6:43 AM

Updated Friday, Apr 23 at 6:23 AM

SEATTLE -  Saying they want to avoid a public health crisis, union garbage haulers for Waste Management will end their strike at midnight Friday morning, but without a new contract.

Thursday afternoon, a spokesman for Teamsters Local 174 says the strike successfully "forced Waste Management to remedy their illegal labor practices." The union also says garbage haulers are heading back to work to prevent a public health crisis and to minimize service disruptions. The union says it expects about 700 area workers to get back on the job, but they are not ruling out another strike.

"At least until Monday when we sit down with Waste Management, see if they're serious about fulfilling their legal obligations they have," says Michael Gonzales, spokesman for Teamsters 174.

"At the urging of Seattle Mayor McGinn and King County Executive Constantine, we commit to getting this done at the bargaining table and to keep the public out of it, if possible," said Rick Hicks, Secretary-Treasurer of Teamsters Local 174.

Click here to for the latest garbage pick-up information in your area

Update for residential customers in Renton: If your garbage was not collected on Wednesday, April 21, it will be collected on Friday, April 23.  If your garbage was not collected on Thursday, April 22, it will be collected on Saturday, April 24. Please put only your garbage containers at the street on Friday morning, April 23.

The union also urged Waste Management to continue negotiating in good faith. Workers walked off the job after saying the company refused to negotiate.

"The company got a hold of us and decided that they were going to remedy their illegal tactics and come back to the bargaining table on Monday, said Michael Gonzales, union spokesman.

Waste Management says they're welcoming striking workers to come back.

"Waste Management has not locked out drivers, so our drivers have the option of coming to work tomorrow," said company spokeswoman Jackie Lang.

Waste Management released a statement, saying a new bargaining session is set for Monday morning with a federal mediator. The company says it delivered a letter to the union on Thursday, renewing an offer made last week to negotiate.

"… this unfortunate situation could have been avoided entirely had the union simply responded to our earlier request to meet," said Lang.

Earlier Thursday, non-union garbage haulers were on the job, picking up trash from hospitals and nursing homes.

In Seattle's Rainier Valley, residential customers saw their garbage just starting to pile up. There was little sympathy to be found for striking garbage workers.

"I think people want jobs and it's a very poor time to go on strike," said homeowner Carolyn Marck.

When garbage haulers took a strike vote at the end of March, the company immediately started training new recruits. Thousands showed up looking for work. On Wednesday morning, many drivers were taken by surprise when the union told them to park their trucks and hit the picket line.

The company says their final offer to each driver was an annual pay and benefits package  worth $110,000.

"$100,000 a year. I'd be real happy with that," said homeowner Charles Colston. As an out-of-work union roofer, he'd prefer that a union man pick up his garbage.

"I know things need to get back to normal and hopefully both sides will come to an understanding," said Colston.

For those that did not have their trash collected during the strike, Waste Management says customers can put out a double load of garbage next week.