- Leaders with the Teamsters union in two metro areas have permission from their members to initiate strikes if they cannot come to an agreement with Republic Services on labor contracts.
- Pay remains an issue for union leaders in both the Atlanta and the Phoenix areas. The Atlanta market first organized in 2003 with Teamsters Local 728, and the contract for 180 workers expires on July 31. Three Republic workplaces in the Phoenix area organized with Teamsters Local 104 over the past year and are seeking their first contract.
- Chuck Stiles, director of the Teamsters’ waste division, said workers were likely to strike in Atlanta, which could lead to Republic workers in other Teamsters-organized markets in states such as Washington, California and Illinois refusing to cross the picket line.
These negotiations are not the first time Republic has faced labor pressure from the Teamsters, including within the Atlanta area.
Other notable examples of actions led at company locations by this union include a 2022 strike in California (which led to a successful agreement) and a 2019 strike in Massachusetts (which did not). In 2018, 120 Atlanta-area Republic drivers, helpers, mechanics and dispatchers also walked off the job to protest what they alleged were violations of federal labor law by their employer.
Then, as now, Teamsters officials called for an end to what they see as a “plantation mentality” embedded in Republic's actions.
“This is a predominantly African-American unit. The City of Atlanta, our community groups, our politicians, they will not take that,” Stiles said. “These guys are not sharecroppers. We won't go from year to year and wonder how we're gonna make money.”
In response to questions about negotiations, an unidentified spokesperson for Republic said via email that the company respected its employees’ rights to engage in collective bargaining and would “continue to work toward agreements that are beneficial for our employees and our company.”
Stiles, who helped organize the Atlanta workers before moving to his current national role, said Republic has not been engaging with negotiators in good faith. He said the union has already filed one unfair labor practice charge against Republic with the National Labor Relations Board and is exploring a second.
Pay structure is a key sticking point in the Atlanta negotiations, as Republic has proposed to move from an incentive-based pay structure to a flat hourly rate. According to Stiles, this means some workers could see as much as a $30,000-per-year pay cut.
The union’s counterproposal is a pay bump for workers who might benefit from the plan while keeping incentive-based pay in place. The union is also seeking to negotiate employee healthcare plans — Atlanta workers are on Republic’s plan, and leaders are exploring ways to either freeze copays or ensure better copays for members.
Stiles also noted Republic has attempted to insert a “zipper clause” into the new labor contract, which he called a “non-starter.” The clause would render any rights not explicitly delineated in the contract null and void, including informal benefits like Gatorade and ice for workers on hot summer days, Stiles said.
“We will not entertain that whatsoever. That is a strike issue,” he said.
In Phoenix, Local 104 represents 116 workers. Josh Graves, the chapter’s vice president, said Republic had been engaging in stall tactics, agreeing to meet only one or two days in a row per month compared to the seven or eight days he’s seen when negotiating with companies in other industries. He also said a management rights article included in Republic's proposal was "one of the worst" he'd seen in a decade of negotiating experience.
"I think it’s just a tactic to delay the negotiations, and I believe Republic’s plan is trying to delay it as much as they can," Graves said. He expects Republic is hoping to wait out the clock before convincing Phoenix-area workers to decertify their union after forcing negotiations to fall through.
The union is negotiating in Phoenix for pay raises higher than Republic’s proposed 15-cent per hour increase. The union also wants to get Republic workers on the Teamsters’ health care plan and the Western Conference of Teamsters Pension trust.
Republic is next scheduled to meet with union leaders in Phoenix on Aug. 2 and 3. Graves pointed out that negotiations over pay and workplace conditions for drivers, mechanics and other workers are occurring in “Republic’s backyard,” as the company plans a new 240,000-square-foot headquarters in Phoenix.
“They could care less about their employees,” Graves said. “That type of approach at the table is very disheartening when they have these employees that work really hard.”
Teamsters have organized more than 9,000 Republic workers nationwide. Union officials said local chapters not currently engaged in negotiations with Republic have already informally expressed support for the workers preparing for a possible strike.
"These other guys will get pissed off when they see what they’re offering us in Atlanta," Stiles said. "These folks realize, ‘Hey, we’ve got to stay in solidarity here. We’re the next guys to go.’"
The Teamsters union has indicated its willingness to take a more “militant” approach in labor negotiations under the leadership of General President Sean O’Brien, who took over the organization last year. In one of the more high-profile examples so far, the Teamsters reached a tentative contract agreement this week to avert a strike at UPS.