Contract talks stalled Thursday between and its recycling and yard waste truck drivers, members of Teamsters Local 117, with a deadline of Sunday set by the company for approval of its “last, best” offer.
Both sides traded charges that the other refused to bargain in good faith and offered no new solutions during the talks, which included the participation of a federal mediator. Union leaders claimed that Waste Management had hired a company known for helping break strikes and lockouts.
The union has scheduled a meeting with the drivers for Saturday at 9 a.m. to update them on the situation. Local 117 members voted on May 12 to authorize a strike if negotiations failed to reach agreement on a new contract, and the previous contract expired on May 31.
In a news release, Waste Management said that during the talks Thursday, union leaders indicated they were not inclined to call for a contract vote this weekend.
“Today’s lack of action is extremely disappointing,” WM spokeswoman Mary Evans said in the release. “The union appears more interested in public media displays and the threat of customer service disruptions rather than allowing employees to vote our generous offer.”
Union leaders said their own news release, however, that Waste Management refused to respond to its latest offer and that the union wants to continue bargaining.
“Waste Management did not come prepared to bargain,” Tracey A. Thompson, Local 117 secretary-treasurer said in the release. “We came back to the table to avoid a public health crisis, but it’s clear that Waste Management wants to provoke a labor dispute.”
The City of Redmond—along with several other Western Washington jurisdictions—contracts for garbage, recycle and yard waste collection with Waste Management, which . John MacGillivray, the City of Kirkland's solid waste program lead, said Waste Management has a contingency plan in the event of a strike or a lockout.
“Obviously, we’re hopeful they can get this thing resolved and we won’t have to deal with that,” he said. “Their (WM) obligation is to provide service and we hold them to that.”
Waste Management has a team of qualified drivers that would be used to provide service if a strike or lockout occurs, MacGillivray said. In that event, service would continue the first week for large commercial customers, such as hospitals and large stores. “Residential service would be suspended the first week and they would pick up a double load the second week,” he said.
Union leaders charged that the company was already flying in crews from out of state.
“Waste Management is spending thousands of dollars on wages, plane tickets, rental cars, and hotel rooms for out-of-state strike-breakers and security guards. That’s money that could be used to fairly compensate its workers, as its major competitors do,” Thompson said in the release.
Waste Management acknowledged that it had hired security for its properties after an informational picket by the union Thursday, but denied that it had hired crews to replace the drivers.
“We have no intention of locking out our employees,” said Robin Freedman, company spokeswoman. “The ball right now is in the union’s court. We want the union to vote this weekend. We do have security on our premises. That’s standard practice in labor situations.”
Freedman said Waste Management had heard that the union posted on Twitter that a strike was imminent and said if that were the case “we would be dismayed.”
The WM news release outlined the company’s offer as follows:
- Wage and benefit increases averaging more than 4 percent per year which would provide the average recycle driver a total compensation package exceeding $98,000 in the final year of the new six-year contract.
- Health care coverage by Waste Management for future cost increases of up to 8 percent per year, or as much as $1,696 per month per driver in the final year of the contract.
- Pension increases throughout the life of the contract bringing the sixth-year annual employer-paid contribution to $10,608.
- $2,000 ratification bonus to each employee upon contract acceptance by June 17.
Customers can get service updates on the company's website, www.wmnorthwest.com.
Editor's note: This story was revised at 2:25 p.m. to include comments from Waste Management.