SEATTLE – Union garbage collectors for Allied Waste and Republic in some Puget Sound cities walked picket lines Thursday in solidarity with fellow union workers on strike in Alabama. Consequently, some customers did not have their trash, recycling and yard waste picked up.
Picket lines are at company facilities in Seattle, Bellevue, Lynnwood and Kent/Kent Meridian. Teamsters spokeswoman Tracey Thompson said the local workers are not on strike, but are simply choosing not to "cross" the picket line.
"Our contracts have language that allow workers to exercise their right to honor a picket line and refuse to cross or work behind it without retribution," said Thompson.
Thompson believes all union workers at the four facilities -- approximately 200 -- are participating. Some of them are walking the lines while others have chosen to stay home from work.
Allied Waste says the stoppage affects some 60,000 customers. All Seattle customers will still have collection. The company hopes backup workers will be able to serve most of the customers in the other areas.
Some customers are clearly not happy.
“The main thing I want to know is what kind of discount we're going to get on our bill, which I doubt is anything,” said Dennis Brink.
The Teamsters say Republic Services, which operates both companies, violated federal labor law and backed out of a contract with Local 991 in Mobile, Ala. They claim workers were about to vote on the contract Feb. 17, but Republic backed out at the last minute in hopes of imposing greater cuts to workers' health care coverage.
Workers there went on strike March 22. The Teamsters say local workers are honoring a contractual right to honor the picket line in Alabama.
"We will not allow Republic to trample on our rights and erode our health care coverage. We won't stand for it here or anywhere else in the country," said Roderick Holmes, who works out of the Bellevue facility.
Republic spokesperson Peg Mulloy said the company does not comment on ongoing negotiations.
"Collecting garbage is a public health issue," said Mulloy, "so whenever we encounter a work stoppage, such as what may be happening today, we have to be prepared to continue to provide collection service to our customers."
Teamsters in Buffalo, NY and Columbus, Ohio have also been picketing in support.