- Republic Services and Waste Connections workers in Chicago both voted to approve new five-year contracts with their employers over the weekend, confirmed Chuck Stiles, director of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters' solid waste and recycling division.
- This is the third agreement reached between organized labor and waste employers in the Chicagoland area in recent weeks. The union’s five-year agreement with WM, ratified by the Teamsters Local 731 on Sept. 25, includes a $9.08 pay increase over the life of the contract. It also includes new commitments on time off, healthcare and termination protocols, Stiles told Waste Dive last week.
- The Teamsters represent more than 2,500 waste workers in the Chicagoland area. Waste companies in the area typically follow each others' leads on contract terms, with minor operational differences for each contract, said Stiles.
The Teamsters have taken a more aggressive approach to leadership under new president Sean O'Brien. Sworn in last year, O'Brien was more involved in negotiations with waste companies in Chicago than his predecessor had been, Stiles said.
"Sean takes a more militant and progressive tone in bargaining and he radiates that to the members,” Stiles said. "That's the reason we got the great deal that we got.”
While negotiations reach a conclusion in Chicago, the Teamsters continue to take a tough stance in other markets. Negotiations are ongoing between Republic Services and local chapters in the Atlanta and Phoenix areas, where members authorized strikes this summer.
The union has previously touted strikes as successful in securing better contracts for members in California and Nevada. Union leadership under O’Brien has also placed a renewed focus on growings its ranks, particularly in areas where the Teamsters have strong membership density.
Local 731 in the Chicago area has also gone through upheaval this year. National leaders put the chapter into trusteeship in the spring and are investigating $1.3 million in unauthorized expenses racked up by the local leader, the Chicago Sun-Times reported.
The new contract with WM in Chicago includes a $3.08 raise across the board for members, followed by $1.50 raises each year for the next four years. In prior agreements, members had gotten less than $5 in raises over the life of their contract, Stiles said.
After members voiced concerns, the Teamsters also negotiated new policies on the use of in-cab cameras in disciplinary matters. Under the new terms, WM must follow a just cause termination procedure if it captures an incident using the cameras that it perceives as a fireable offense. Stiles said in the past, management had assured union members that footage from the cameras was only reviewed by a third party, but employees found that supervisors had access to the footage.
“If you turned the truck over in the past you were automatically terminated. Now, it will go through just cause,” Stiles said. “Believe it or not, that's big.”
The WM deal also locks in a $1-per-hour increase to union members’ health and welfare and pension funds. Healthcare costs are locked in at their current price for the life of the new contract.
The union also won a more generous sick leave policy, raising the minimum number of paid days up to five, and members are able to earn additional days depending on tenure. Vacation time increased from 40 hours straight to 45 hours straight.
"This is the richest waste agreement that the Chicago locals have ever had," Stiles said.
In a statement, WM of Illinois said it was pleased to reach a “mutually beneficial” contract with its employees.