The International Brotherhood of Teamsters Local 728 voted to approve a new contract with Republic Services in Atlanta, officials announced Thursday. The vote comes after members had authorized a strike in July amid tensions over core pieces of the five-year agreement.
The contract moves more than 160 union members from an incentive-based pay structure to an hourly pay structure. Over the course of negotiations, workers had protested the move as they feared employees could see pay cuts. Union officials said Republic’s initial proposal would have resulted in loss of pay for some employees of up to $30,000 a year.
But the newly ratified contract with the hourly pay system may raise wages for some workers, said Chuck Stiles, director of the Teamsters Solid Waste and Recycling Division. He noted some employees would see an $8 to $9 per hour pay boost.
“We came out way ahead for over 90% of the workers. The others were basically a breakeven,” Stiles said.
An unidentified spokesperson for Republic described the contract as “fair” in an emailed statement, saying, “We value our employees and their commitment to our company and look forward to continuing to provide the highest level of service to our customers.”
The contract also made Juneteenth a paid holiday for the first time. The union has previously advocated for Martin Luther King Jr. Day as a paid holiday in recognition of the civil rights activists’ support for sanitation workers. Union officials had also previously decried Republic’s treatment of and contract offer to its workers, accusing Republic of a “plantation mentality.”
Stiles noted Local 728 is a predominantly Black chapter, and that Teamsters negotiators were trying to make the Atlanta contract “as inclusive as we can.” He said the union is trying to get Juneteenth a holiday in waste contracts in other markets as well.
The Atlanta contract also updated paid time off rules. Under the new system, workers qualify for additional weeks of PTO sooner in their tenure. The most senior employees — those who have been working for 20 years or more — now receive five weeks of paid time off annually.
“We worked hard, stayed in solidarity, and secured a strong contract that improves the working conditions of maintenance workers, dispatchers, and drivers,” Jeff Rolland, a shop steward and 37-year driver at Republic Services, said in a statement announcing the agreement.
The union is still in active negotiations at other organizing hotspots. In Chicago, members working for smaller waste companies still must vote on contracts that follow the basic structure of a separate agreement Teamsters reached in their negotiations with WM and other major waste companies. Negotiations also continue in Phoenix, where three newly formed Teamsters chapters are seeking their first contract with Republic.
Editor’s note: The story has been updated with comment from Republic.