- A strike at the Arbor Hills Landfill in Salem Township, MI has ended after five days. The announcement of a new three-year contract between Advanced Disposal Services and Operating Engineers Local 324, representing 17 heavy equipment operators and mechanics, came on the evening of Oct. 13. The deal included wage increases, a health insurance package with less out-of-pocket costs, and more clear expectations about working conditions.
- Exact wage details weren't disclosed, but a statement from Local 324 said the contract "will bring compensation in line with other landfill workers." "We are very pleased with this important win for our members. All our members wanted was a fair contract that valued their service to thousands of customers and was in line with other landfills in metro Detroit," said Douglas Stockwell, business manager and general vice president for Local 324, in the statement.
- Advanced also touted the agreement as a victory in its own press release. "We reached an important agreement that protects our business and employees," said Kelly Rooney, district manager for Advanced Disposal, in a press release. "Our job is to keep neighborhoods clean, keep our landfill operating effectively, and keep our employees safe every day. The partnership with the union helps us meet these goals.”
The Arbor Hills workers voted to unionize with Local 324 in August 2016 and had been struggling to reach an agreement with Advanced since then. This stalemate led to multiple complaints with the National Labor Relations Board this year. The workers' main point of contention was that wage rates were inconsistent at Arbor Hills, and in some cases lower than at area landfills or sites operated by Advanced in other states. Healthcare expenses were also a commonly cited concern.
According to the company's press release, the turning point was Local 324's decision to drop demands for participation in a pension plan that isn't fully funded. Dan McKernan, a spokesperson for Local 324, disputed that characterization and said that wage details were the final sticking points in negotiations. McKernan also told Waste Dive that the final wage agreement was higher than what Advanced originally proposed in September, as written in the company's press release. Joe Kohn, community relations manager for Advanced, said he stood by the release's details when asked for a response.
This resolution caps a tense five days at Arbor Hills, where truck traffic was slowed by picketers and altercations were reported involving drivers. Advanced brought in the outside security firm Huffmaster and state and local police were also on site periodically. Local 324 wasn't aware that any of those alleged altercations had led to formal investigations. Based on their positive responses about the new contract, both sides appear ready to put the strike behind them and return to normal order at one of Michigan's largest landfill as of today.