UPDATE: Though their numbers have diminished, workers continue to strike at the Arbor Hills Landfill operated by Advanced Disposal in Salem Township, MI. The latest count of workers still on strike, as reported by Crain's Detroit Business, is now 15. Additional members of Organizing Engineers Local 324, as well as members from other unions, have been periodically joining them on the picket line.
While the site remains open for business, local reports indicate that the amount and flow of trucks may have been diminished this week as a result of the strike. One truck driver reported being assaulted by picketers on Oct. 10, according to Hometownlife.com, and the Michigan State Police planned to follow up with an investigation. In addition to security guards hired by Advanced, state troopers and local Northville Township officers have also been on site throughout the week.
As of publication, no resolution has been reached between Advanced and the workers represented by Local 324.
- Workers at Advanced Disposal's Arbor Hills Landfill, located in Salem Township, MI, officially went on strike Monday after months of picketing. It was originally reported that this involved 19 of the site's 34 heavy equipment operators and mechanics workers, though that number is now 17, according to Operating Engineers Local 324.
- These workers organized with Local 324 in August 2016 and negotiations with Advanced have stalled in recent months, according to union representatives. "We're asking for fair wages, comprehensive healthcare benefits and retirement contributions," Tom Scott, a spokesperson for Local 324, told Waste Dive.
- Advanced Disposal has brought in employees from other sites and some outside staff to maintain regular operations at Arbor Hills. "We were disappointed by the local's decision to strike today, as both parties have proposals outstanding that do not expire until the end of this week," said Kelly Rooney, Arbor Hills district manager in a press release. "We have a fair offer on the table that delivers enhanced benefits and wages for the employees."
Arbor Hills, one of the largest landfills in Michigan, has drawn ongoing community attention for odor issues in recent years. Advanced recently took over responsibility for the gas collection system after it was shared by multiple companies and has since begun to make improvements. The repeated presence of picketers, and now security from Huffmaster, a strike management company that is helping escort vehicles through the picket line, has drawn additional attention to the site.
According to Local 324, pay can range anywhere from $13 to $18 an hour for many workers, and the average employee pays $150 per week for health insurance. Scott said these high costs have forced some workers to find employment elsewhere, particularly those with more expensive medical needs. Workers currently have access to a standard 401(k) plan, but no retirement contributions for a pension. This level of benefits, and pay, is reportedly lower than what workers make at other landfills in the Detroit area or at other Advanced Disposal sites in the region.
"There's no rhyme or reason why [Advanced is] behaving the way that they are," said Scott.
Advanced Disposal declined to comment on current wages at Arbor Hills, or how they compared to other sites in the region, due to ongoing negotiations. One point that both sides appear to be in agreement on is that safety conditions at the site are good. Neither side has set a specific timeline for next steps, though Advanced has made it clear they're hoping for an expeditious resolution.
"The bottom line is we want our people back to work," said Kohn. "We're doing everything we can to get this resolved."
Local 324 has also filed multiple complaints with the National Labor Relations Board during this process. The first, filed last summer, is now closed and authorized the workers to picket. Two more, filed in June and August of this year, remain open. Based on recent examples of other contentious negotiations in the industry, these complaints could be resolved or withdrawn if a contract is finalized.