Keith Daigle
Garbage haulers are coming back to work as of Midnight Thursday April 22-23. Negotiations with Waste Management will continue.

UPDATE: Waste Management Teamsters Local 174 coming back

Workers returning to "prevent a public health crisis"

In a statement released Thursday afternoon, Waste Management said that garbage workers across King and Snohomish counties would return to work, Friday, April 23 at midnight.

"We are trying to persuade Waste Management to stop bargaining in bad faith," said Rick Hicks, Secretary-Treasurer of Teamsters Local 174,".

"However, we are also concerned that if we continued the strike, Waste Management might lockout our members and create another Oakland." He was referring to the 2007 strike that created havoc in that California city. The primary reason to return to work then was to "prevent a public health crisis."

Labor and management agreed to return to the bargaining table on Monday, according to Mike Gonzales, spokesman for Teamsters Local 174.

Local Waste Management garbage haulers went on strike on Tuesday April 20 when, Waste Management workers said, the company was no longer willing to discuss the terms of their contract with their union, the Teamsters local 174.

In an exclusive interview with the West Seattle Herald, Local 174 spokesman Michael Gonzalez said he believes this conflict cuts deeper than the immediate salary conflict. He said Waste Management is on a public relations campaign to create labor disputes so that King County and the public perceive the union as being a difficult player.

"Waste Management wants to pick up your garbage and put it in its own transfer stations and railroad the waste down to Oregon," he said. "They say they can then save the consumer 25 percent. But what they don’t tell you is once they have the pick-up business, transfer stations and landfills, they become a monopoly and over time they can raise the rates as they see fit. They have in New York, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and Ohio, raising the rates 40-138%. That is what this is about. Were asking the community to support us."

The strike would have affected garbage and yard waste pickup for 1 million people in King and Snohomish Counties and, according to Seattle Public Utilities the yard waste of 18,000 residents in south and northwest Seattle, who normally have yard waste service on Wednesday, was not picked up. Waste Management asked that people put it out for next week when they will pick up double the amount.

Garbage trucks were called back in from the field and the pickets went up after the strike was announced. The union, on their website, accuse the company of attempting to lock out its employees and forcing a strike.

From the website they say, “waste management is the fifth most dangerous job in the country. Although sanitation workers expose themselves daily to hazardous substances and perform backbreaking physical labor, the company is refusing to provide workers with the same health care protections provided by all other waste companies in the area.”

Waste Management, in their best and final offer given to the union on April 1, offered what would amount to a 10.7 percent increase in annual wages over the next five years, along with $15,000 toward workers pensions and increased health benefits.

In the fifth year workers would be making $74,121 in annual wages plus an additional $35,000 a year in pension and health benefits giving them $109,553 a year in annual compensation.

"I have no shame bargaining a contract that provides middle class wages and benefits," Gonzalez told the 34th District Democrats at their April 14 meeting. "I will never be ashamed of that."

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