Margarita Martinez fought to win a massive settlement for her co-workers at Leadpoint/Republic.
At the Republic Services recycling depot in downtown Seattle, members of Teamsters 117 process thousands of tons of paper, metals, and plastics daily. Trucks snake into the 3rd and Lander facility to dump their loads, which our members bulldoze and bundle for rail transport to locations across the West.
An essential part of the work requires careful sorting of the materials. Republic subcontractor, Leadpoint, employs hundreds at the Seattle facility to perform this work. This painstaking, dirty, and dangerous job has resulted in serious industrial accidents. In 2015, the Washington State Department of Labor and Industries fined Leadpoint $77,600 for serious safety violations at its Material Recovery Center in Vancouver, WA.
In 2016, our union discovered something else: Leadpoint was treating its Seattle employees like garbage, and Republic Services was complicit in the abuse. Workers were locked out of bathrooms, forced to change into their gear in the parking lot, and paid below Seattle’s minimum wage standards. Leadpoint employees who tried to organize a union were subjected to harassment and intimidation.
Margarita Martinez was one of those workers. An ardent union supporter, Martinez was sent home by company management without pay on several occasions. Neither Leadpoint nor Republic could offer a good explanation for the discipline.
Organizer Maria Francisca Torres rallied the workers to defend their rights. The union pressured the company to unlock the bathrooms and filed an unfair labor practice for the company’s harassment of Martinez. The group also lodged a complaint with Seattle’s Office of Labor Standards alleging that the company was unlawfully paying its workers below minimum wage.
The City investigated and found that the company was in violation of the law. That investigation, spurred on by Teamsters 117, ultimately led to the largest pro-worker settlement in the history of the agency. The settlement calls for Leadpoint to pay a total of $686,202 in backpay, interest, and damages to 358 current and former workers.
"Knowing that we earn a fair salary gives me joy and confirms that our fight was important."
“Our fight with Leadpoint was brutal,” declared Martinez on learning of the settlement. “It was obvious that they were trying to pay us less than we deserved. But knowing that we earn a fair salary gives me joy and confirms that our fight was important and necessary.”
John Scearcy, Secretary-Treasurer of Teamsters 117, praised the workers for standing up to their employer. He also called out Republic for not stepping in to address the abuse.
“Republic Services needs to take responsibility when its subcontractors are abusing workers and violating the law,” he said. “All workers deserve a living wage, safe working conditions, and good jobs with benefits. This settlement is a testament to workers standing together to fight for that.”