"The future is in recycling,” said Secretary-Treasurer Tracey A. Thompson as the initial demands meeting for Local 117 members working for Waste Management got underway on January 14.
Contracts for approximately 250 recycle and yard waste drivers at Waste Management and Allied Waste expire at the end of May of this year, and all indications point to challenging contract negotiations ahead.
COMMUNITIES “GOING GREEN”
With “Go Green” becoming a community imperative, a lot more items are recyclable and compostable. Most household waste is ending up in the recycle and yard waste cans not in the garbage can. The tonnage on the average garbage truck has gone down, while the average tonnage on yard waste and recycle trucks has gone up and continues to go up. Additionally, there has been a steady rise in the hours of service for recycle and yard waste drivers.
In 2010, profits for industrial giant Waste Management rose 44 percent in the fourth quarter alone because of higher prices for recycled materials and lower expenses.
“There is no doubt – the industry is moving away from trash and toward recycle,” said Leo Holte, an 8-year driver, who attended the Waste Management demands meeting on January 14.
“We need to stand strong and trust our bargaining committee,” added commercial frontload driver, Jay Bleakley, who has been a Shop Steward at Waste Management for over 14 years. “People need to turn out for all of the meetings. Everybody needs to be on board.” Bleakley, an 18-year Waste Management employee, serves 170 customers in Kent, Newcastle, Renton, and Tukwila.
STRIKE FUND = UNION POWER!
The newly established Local 117 Strike Fund that was voted on and overwhelmingly approved by the membership last fall will provide your Union with additional leverage in bargaining. “Our strike fund gives us strength and sends a message to the employer that we are ready to fight,” said Shop Steward Roderick Holmes, a Teamster at Allied Waste.
Members at the January 14 meeting prioritized all other key elements of the contract. Given the high risks associated with the job, the need for decent health care coverage and a secure retirement were on the minds of many.
“This is our livelihood. We are working for our future so that we can support our families later,” Holte said. Bargaining with Waste Management will commence on January 30 and continue on February 2, 3, and 7. Teamsters Local No. 117 has reached out to Allied Waste / Republic Services to set dates for bargaining. However, at this time no dates with Allied Waste have been scheduled.
If you are a Teamster in the recycle industry and have questions about upcoming negotiations, talk to your Shop Steward or Business Representative, Thomas Wray at 206-441-4860 ext 1267.