Wages and compensation can definitely be a complex issue to sort out. Wednesday, July 25, recycling and yard waste drivers with Kirkland-based Waste Management, which serves parts of Sammamish, went on strike, after months of collective bargaining talks went sour in June.
A major issue raised by the workers, represented by Teamsters Local 117, has been wages, and in particular a $9 per hour disparity between what recyling/yard waste drivers and refuse collection drivers make.
Last month, Waste Management extended its which at the end of the six-year contract includes $98,000 total annual compensation for those recycling workers.
To clarify what that means, since on the face of it that sort of sounds like wages only in some of the articles we've published on Patch, and both Patch users and my friends have expressed exasperation at that figure, I asked Waste Management spokeswoman Robin Freedman to help me make sure everything is clear on the compensation front.
Here is her response:
"The offer of $98,000 is the total compensation our drivers will receive at the end of the proposed six-year contract. That includes a 4 percent raise year over year and it includes a healthy employer funded pension and health benefits.
"On average, drivers make $58,000 and at the end of the proposed 6-year contract, they will make $68,000 salary."
So for perspective, add to the salary benefits such as health care, sick and vacation pay, and a generous employer pension contribution of some $10,000 annually. You could compare the pension contribution to your employer's 401k match, for example.
Is this compensation outrageous for this area? As a benchmark for comparison, you could look at U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics data, which put average wages (wages only) for refuse workers at $44,960 statewide, but that includes the whole state, much of which has a lower cost of living than Waste Management's coverage area. Still, Washington is the third-highest paying state for refuse collection (recycling and yard waste within the same industry is not broken out on the report).
According to reports, such as on Northwest Cable News, Teamsters 117 has said the biggest bone of contention is a difference of up to $9 per hour in pay for recycling workers versus refuse workers. Along with today's strike, the union has claimed labor violations by
Freedman said the company cannot comment on other contracts, but that it feels it put forward a good offer.
"We are proud of the offer we have put forth. It is fair and generous—especially in these economic times," Freedman said.
Do you think it's enough? Please share your thoughts.