Replacement drivers to pick up garbage Wednesday as strike continues
By SAMANTHA PAK
Redmond Reporter Reporter
August 1, 2012 · Updated 1:01 PM
Waste Management, Inc. (WMI) is still in labor negotiations with recycling and yard waste truck drivers in King and Snohomish counties, but some Redmond customers were able to get a little relief from the smelly mess as the company brought in replacement drivers to provide garbage pickup service Wednesday.
Service extended to commercial customers in both counties and residential customers in select cities, including Redmond, though service was limited to regularly scheduled Wednesday garbage pickup.
This disruption in service began when WMI recycling and yard waste truck drivers went on strike July 25 following failed contract negotiations, affecting about 22,000 residential customers in Redmond.
The issue at hand is the 153 WMI recycle and yard waste drivers, who have been working without a contract since May 31, according to Teamsters Local Union 117, which includes the WMI drivers. The drivers unanimously voted on June 2 to authorize a strike after they said the company committed a series of labor law violations.
Local 117 accused the company of federal labor law violations including bad-faith bargaining, coercing and direct dealing with its employees and threatening to retaliate against workers. According to the union, the National Labor Relation Board is currently investigating those violations.
WMI spokesperson Robin Freedman denied that WMI had violated any federal labor laws.
"That's a typical union tactic during labor negotiations to claim there were unfair labor practices," she said. "We are extremely confident the National Labor Relations Board will find (their accusations) without merit."
She added after more than six months of contract negotiations, the company put forth 16 comprehensive proposals that were "very generous."
WMI delivered its final contract offer to the union on June 6, which proposed wage and benefit increases averaging more than 4 percent per year. The contract also offered the average recycle driver a total compensation package of $98,023 in the final year of the new six-year contract. Mediation between the union and company ended June 14 after the parties failed to reach a new collective bargaining agreement to replace the contract that expired May 31.
Teamsters Local Union 174, whose membership includes garbage truck drivers, are honoring the Local 117 picket lines.
"The labor disruption continues to be a very unfortunate situation for our customers," said Kristin Kinder, another spokesperson for WMI. "Waste Management sincerely apologizes to our community for the inconvenience caused by the Teamsters strike."
While some Redmond customers have been greatly impacted, Christina Henning, senior marketing manager for Redmond Town Center, said they have had minimal impacts due to equipment and programs in place at the town center.
"We're pretty fortunate because we have trash compactors onsite," she said. "We're operating with minor impacts so far."
She said with the trash compactors as well as recycling and composting programs, town center businesses have been able to consolidate and minimize the trash they produce. Henning added that so far, no businesses within the town center have contacted the mall office with any concerns yet.
"We're not in a situation where (garbage is) overflowing," she said.
Although things are under control at the town center for the moment, Henning said if the strike continues for an extended period, they will look into alternatives and other companies for garbage pickup.
Henning said they do not allow garbage dumping from outside the town center because they only have enough equipment to accommodate the garbage produced onsite. She said she has not heard of any attempts of illegal dumping and credited this to the town center's 24-hour security.
Marchione said he is glad WMI reinstated garbage pickup Wednesday but there are still concerns regarding yard waste and recycling pickup service.
"(If service doesn't resume) we are going to send a letter to Waste Management (Thursday) telling them that they are in breach of their contract with the City of Redmond," Marchione told the Redmond Reporter Wednesday.
The mayor said consequences to this breach range from daily fines to termination of contract, although the latter "would only be used in an extreme example because it would take us up to a year to get another provider up and running."
Marchione said WMI, which provides service in Redmond every weekday and some commercial service on weekends, could face a maximum fine of about $7,500 per day, but this would include lack of garbage service. With this service back, the fine would be less, but the amount is calculated using a specific formula.
"It's not a set dollar amount," said City of Redmond natural resources manager Jon Spangler. "It's a formula based on the number of customers who were not provided service and how long it's been."
Right now, no dumping sites have been established in Redmond for recycling or yard waste, but Marchione said they can dump their trash at the Houghton Transfer Station at 11724 N.E. 60th St. in Kirkland. There is a minimum fee of $20 per entry, which covers up to 320 pounds, according to the King County website. For larger amounts, the fee is $117.82 per ton.
For more information about the progress of the strike and service interruptions, visit www.wmnorthwest.com/servicedelays.
Raechel Dawson and Carrie Rodriguez contributed to this article.Contact Redmond Reporter Reporter Samantha Pak at firstname.lastname@example.org or 425-867-0353, ext. 5052.