UPDATE: Teamsters Local 117 and Republic Services reached an agreement on Wednesday over a contract involving 120 recycling and yard waste drivers in Washington, according to a Teamsters press statement.
“We will be bringing our members together soon to discuss this contract proposal and to bring the offer to a vote," said John Scearcy, secretary-treasurer of Teamsters Local 117 and the lead negotiator for the union, in the statement. Members of the union will have an opportunity vote in the upcoming weeks.
"We’re pleased. This is a fair agreement and a positive outcome for all," said Russ Knocke, vice president of communications for Republic, in an emailed statement to Waste Dive. Specific details of the proposal are still unclear.
- Teamsters Local 117 drivers who haul recycling and yard waste for Republic Services voted Sunday to strike following a contract update meeting in Tukwila, WA, according to a press statement.
- The drivers cited safety hazards and claim they have been working without protections of a contract since the agreement with Republic expired last Wednesday. Now, in bargaining, the union is demanding safer trucks as well as "equity with the garbage haulers."
- Republic Services told the Kent Reporter that company representatives are scheduled to meet for bargaining purposes starting today. "We are working very hard to arrive at a new agreement which is fair to our employees and our Company. That's our entire focus," wrote Gregg Brummer, area president of Republic Services, in an emailed statement to Waste Dive.
This strike, which affects approximately 120 yard waste and recycling drivers across the state of Washington — in areas including Bellevue, Kent, Seattle and Lynnwood — could potentially have great implications. Without drivers on route, recycling and yard waste are likely to pile up, resulting in customer complaints and potential loss of business for Republic.
However the allegation of being lax on safety is not one that any waste company wants to have to manage. Coming down on the wrong side of this issue could be damaging to public perception as well as limiting in the ability to recruit drivers for an occupation with a dangerous reputation.
This is not the first time that waste industry members of Teamsters Local 117 have voiced concern for safety and labor practices. In 2012, 153 recycling and yard waste drivers for Waste Management went on strike after claiming pay disparities between garbage and recycling haulers. That strike continued for approximately a week as Waste Management hired replacement workers and eventually reached a contractual agreement with the Teamsters.