Sims workers vote to unionize at Brooklyn MRF, averting strike
- Workers at the Sims Municipal Recycling facility in Brooklyn voted to join Teamsters Local 210 on March 3.
- The final vote was 46 in favor and 20 against, with the election monitored by an independent arbitrator. Employees were allowed to wear stickers or other displays of their voting preference and management agreed to remain neutral.
- Contract negotiations will now take place in the following weeks and multiple complaints filed to the National Labor Relations Board could be withdrawn or resolved as part of that process. Getting access to more affordable health benefits has been one of the workers' top priorities.
These results follow a surprise announcement on the evening of March 2 that an election would be held the following day after months of organizing and threats of a strike. The Department of Sanitation (DSNY) sends the majority of recyclables it collects to this facility for processing per a long-term contract with Sims and a strike could have been very disruptive. While the Teamsters wanted Sims to recognize signed union authorization cards, the company said it preferred a vote and DSNY voiced a similar position. City Council members pressured the company during a lengthy hearing last week and Mayor Bill de Blasio also expressed the desire for a timely resolution.
This quickly organized vote represents a compromise for both sides and the results have been welcomed by all involved. Once a contract is finalized every Sims facility in the New York and New Jersey area will be unionized. The Teamsters had been focusing on the Brooklyn location as part of their efforts to expand membership in the area, which also includes the ongoing discussion over a potential commercial waste franchise system in the city.
These results may not translate into near-term union growth at commercial waste facilities in the area, because DSNY usually doesn't get involved in the affairs of companies it works with unless a long-term contract is in place or laws are being broken. Though as the city begins moving toward more long-term organics processing contracts and considers a franchise system that could include labor requirements based on the model of other cities, this may not be the last time that it faces public pro-union pressure.
- Teamsters Joint Council 16 Sims Recycling Workers Join Teamsters
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