Teamster recycle and yard waste drivers who work at Republic Services achieved an historic victory yesterday.
With the terms of their new contract, the group accomplished a goal that had been pursued for more than three decades: Wages and working conditions that are equitable with the garbage drivers.
In every negotiation for the past 30 years, the group has made wage parity a priority. But achieving it has been easier said than done.
The inequity in the industry can be traced back to the 1980s when cities like Seattle first launched their municipal recycling programs. At that time, garbage was the moneymaker for solid waste companies; recycling was not.
That dynamic shifted as cities implemented programs like the “Wasteless in Seattle” initiative, which set ambitious goals for diverting garbage from landfills by recycling and lowering disposal, transportation, and energy costs.
Three generations of Teamsters at Coke: Gene Kettle (l), Dave Campbell (center), Jake Campbell (r).
“As long as those trucks are rolling, stay close to them and you’ll be fine.”
That was the advice Dave Campbell gave his son, Jake, who went to work for Coca-Cola as a merchandiser when he was still in high school. It was the same advice Dave’s father-in-law, Gene Kettle, had given him when Dave launched his own Teamsters career 36 years ago.
In all, the family’s employment at Coke has spanned three generations for a combined 75 years of service.
Gene started as a Teamster at the company back in 1955, but eventually promoted into management and went on to run operations at Coke’s Marysville branch. Dave recalls his father-in-law telling stories of a Coke strike back in the 70s’. “They hired a bunch of Huskies to load trucks,” he said. “One of them knocked over six pallet boards and half buried a route truck in glass. They fired them all.”
Teamsters at Auto Warehousing are gearing up for a fight. In contract negotiations, the company has walked away from the bargaining table on multiple occasions and refused to bargain in good faith.
“The first negotiation session lasted exactly 67 minutes before they decided they were done for the day,” said Randy Chronister, a nine-year Teamster Brother who serves on the union bargaining committee.
The last time the committee met with the company, on Friday June 2, company negotiators abruptly walked out on the union.
“Management has been obstructionist from the start. They do not appear to want to negotiate,” said Brother Chronister.
"We have a lot of upset sisters and brothers who work there."
In response to the company’s failure to bargain, the union committee, led by Local 117 Vice President Marcus Williams, quickly organized a meeting for the following Monday.
At that meeting, nearly a hundred of our Teamster Sisters and Brothers packed the Teamsters hall in Tacoma and overwhelmingly voted to authorize a strike.
“Marcus detailed the issues we’ve been having during negotiations,” Brother Chronister said. “We have a lot of upset sisters and brothers who work there. We don’t feel like management is taking us seriously.”
An overwhelming strike vote sends a powerful message to the company that they need to treat members with respect and bargain a contract in good faith that members can ratify.
“I’ve reached out to FMCS to see if a federal mediator can assist in the process,” Brother Williams said. “We’re hopeful that the company will return to the table with a more conciliatory approach. If that is not the case, members have indicated that they are ready to take action.”
Teamsters who work at Auto Warehousing are responsible for taking new vehicles and adding accessories to them before they get shipped out to the dealerships. The group of 120 Teamsters prepares thousands of vehicles every month.
Christine McDaniels will be named our new Sergeant-At-Arms. She works as maintenance staff at the Teamsters Union Hall in Tukwila.
Congrats, Christine McDaniels! Christine will be named our Union's first EVER female Sergeant-At-Arms at our quarterly General Membership Meeting on June 15.
"I know how to talk to people and calm them down real quick."
"When John (Scearcy) asked me about it two months ago, I was overwhelmed," McDaniels said. "I've been excited ever since."
As Sergeant-At-Arms, McDaniels will have the responsibility of helping to maintain order at our meetings. That means if you start to get unruly, you'll have to answer to Christine!
"I'm definitely the kind of person for that," she said. "I'm the peacemaker. That's what they called me at my last job. I know how to talk to people and calm them down real quick."
Come to our meeting next week and witness history as Christine is sworn in to her new role.
Contract Offer is Subject to Ratification by the Membership; Recycle and Yard Waste Drivers Will Vote on Proposal Soon
Late last night, Teamsters Local 117 achieved a fully-recommended offer with Republic Services over a contract involving 120 recycle and yard waste drivers employed at the company’s locations in Bellevue, Seattle, Lynnwood and Kent.
The contract proposal is subject to ratification by the membership. Members will have an opportunity to consider and vote on the offer in the next few weeks.
"Recycle and yard waste drivers perform difficult, dangerous work to protect the public health and keep our neighborhoods clean," said John Scearcy, Secretary-Treasurer of Teamsters Local 117 and the lead negotiator for the Union. “We will be bringing our members together soon to discuss this contract proposal and to bring the offer to a vote.”
Secretary-Treasurer Scearcy expressed his gratitude to Chuck Stiles, the Assistant Director of the Solid Waste and Recycle Division at the International Brotherhood of Teamsters. “Chuck was our single source of support from the IBT and he stayed in constant contact during the negotiations from the beginning of our contract campaign.”
Many other Teamsters, union members, community groups, and volunteers also supported the workers during the campaign.
The old contract between the Teamsters and Republic Services expired on May 31, 2017.
Teamster recycle and yard waste drivers who work at Republic Services voted overwhelmingly to authorize a strike on Sunday. The drivers took the strike vote after a contract update meeting at the Teamsters building in Tukwila.
“Our job is the sixth most dangerous in the country,” said George Blakey, a driver who works out of Republic’s depot in Bellevue. “We’ve had people almost get run over, we’ve had people get hit. Then you have the actual equipment – if it malfunctions, it can hurt you. It doesn’t matter if you’re a garbage driver or if you’re hauling away recycle or yard waste. Republic should do everything they can to treat us equitably and keep us safe.”
The Teamsters have been in negotiations with Republic for the last several months. The drivers have been working without the protections of a contract since the agreement expired last Wednesday. Bargaining between the union and the company is scheduled for June 6 and 7. No other dates have been scheduled.
“We’re working hard to avert a strike,” said John Scearcy, Secretary-Treasurer and the lead negotiator for Teamsters Local 117. “We’re hopeful that Republic comes to the bargaining table prepared to negotiate a contract in good faith that values safety and equity for drivers and their families. If that is not the case, the drivers have indicated with this vote that they are ready to take action to protect their livelihoods.”
In bargaining, the union is seeking, among other improvements, safer trucks, a limit to the number of hours drivers would be required to spend on the road, and equity with the garbage haulers. So far, Republic has rejected those proposals.
“Even the company is telling us we do the same job; they tell us that at our safety meetings,” said Fabio Desimone, a 23-year Teamster, who works out of Republic’s yard in Kent. “The route managers will come up and say we deserve to have parity.”
Teamsters Local 117 represents approximately 120 yard waste and recycle drivers who are dispatched out of four Republic locations: Bellevue, Kent, Seattle, and Lynnwood. The drivers who work out of the Bellevue yard serve some of the wealthiest neighborhoods in our region, including Bellevue, Mercer Island, Medina, Yarrow Point, Hunts Point, Sammamish, and Issaquah. The drivers serve dozens of other North and South Sound communities.
Teamsters at Local 812 on Long Island have been on strike at Clare Rose, a major Anheuser Busch distributor, for 41 days. The company is intent on slashing worker pay and benefits.
Support striking Teamsters! Contact Anheuser Busch at 1-800-DIAL BUD 342-5283. Tell them Clare Rose needs to stop harming its workers!
Dwayne Bockman and Cara Mattson share a hug as the contract is close to being finalized.
Sitting behind the wheel of the bus shuttling SeaTac passengers between airport terminals, Brad Mehtala’s smile is beaming.
“This new contract is amazing! I never thought it would happen. It’s like a new job!”
George Blakey is a Shop Steward who works as a driver at Republic Services. He is on our Union's bargaining committee.
My name is George Blakey. I am a Shop Steward and proud member of Teamsters Local 117 who works as a driver for Republic Services in the solid waste industry.
My co-workers and I are in the middle of a tough contract fight with our employer. On behalf of my fellow Teamsters and our families, I ask that you please sign a petition supporting us.
I haul away recycle and yard waste from businesses and customers who live in residential neighborhoods in and around Bellevue, WA.
I encounter a lot of hazards on my route. I deal with rats, dirty diapers, and syringes in and around the cans, not to mention the dangerous equipment we operate. Maybe that’s why our job is consistently listed as one of the ten most dangerous jobs in America.
I work hard to support my family and want to be treated with respect.
Right now that’s not happening. In contract negotiations, Republic is pitting Teamster against Teamster, recycle drivers against garbage drivers.
Peter Miller sitting against the glass of the penguin exhibit. He has worked at the Woodland Park Zoo for over a decade.
On a sunny day in May, along with toddlers and mothers in bright shirts and summer dresses, I headed to the Woodland Park Zoo. I was there to meet members of our union who work there, and Peter — a Shop Steward — was going to be my guide.
Peter has worked as a zookeeper for over twenty years both as a Teamster and as part of the nearly 90% of private sector US workers who do not belong to a union*. When I asked him about the difference, he said it was staggering. Job security was on top of the list as he mentioned that zoo keeping is one of the rare professions where job longevity is common as well as valuable.