- Workers at Sims Municipal Recycling in New York finalized their first union contract on August 16, according to a Teamsters press release. The 70 material recovery facility employees, now members of Teamsters Local 210, will receive immediate raises and be entitled to multiple other benefits.
- Healthcare costs had been a primary reason for organizing and workers are now part of a union plan, with the full cost of insurance premiums paid by Sims. Workers had previously been paying $0.61 to $2.64 per hour in healthcare premiums.
- Under the new contract, workers will receive annual raises, a retirement plan, additional vacation time and access to a higher education program. They will also be represented during any disciplinary action and have all other rights of a union contract.
This campaign began in December 2016 when workers signed union authorization cards, and became increasingly public earlier this year after Sims management reportedly wouldn't negotiate a contract. At one point there was talk of a strike. The issue continued to gain attention after workers and management testified at a New York City Council sanitation committee hearing in February. Mayor Bill de Blasio weighed in shortly after and an agreement was reached in March to hold an expedited election. On March 3, workers voted 46-20 in favor of unionizing with Local 210.
The finalization of this deal means that all Sims locations in the region are now unionized and marks an expansion for the Teamsters among employees working locally in the waste sector. In New York, workers at the city's Department of Sanitation (DSNY) are part of Local 831. Recent efforts to organize workers at private companies such as Planet Waste and Shred-It, a subsidiary of Stericycle, have been led by Local 813.
Organizing one of the country's largest MRFs — which sorts the majority of New York's residential recyclables — is a victory for the Teamsters. Though overall their presence in the city's commercial waste industry is still small. The group has been a leading proponent for a zone collection system, which could potentially include union requirements that may help expand their membership. DSNY recently finalized an $8 million consulting contract to begin an extended planning process that could lead to implementation of such a system in the coming years.