Waste Management, drivers need to find reasonable end to smelly strike
The Seattle Times editorial board urges Waste Management and the Teamsters union to be reasonable and end the strike of garbage and recycling drivers.
Seattle Times Editorial
THE people of Seattle and surrounding communities await the end of the garbage-and-recycyling haulers' strike at Waste Management, and not patiently. In the warmth of July, garbage stinks. Uncollected, it spills over and makes a mess.
Waste Management is under contract to empty cans in about half of Seattle until 2019, under a plan that allows garbage bills to rise only an amount for general inflation. Waste Management's obligation is to manage its labor relations accordingly.
The city's interest is that Waste Management empty the cans, and beginning Wednesday it threatens to fine the company $1.5 million a day if it does not. The city should feel no reluctance about doing this. Kirkland, Federal Way and other jurisdictions being struck should similarly use their contractual rights to bring this strike to an end.
The unions also have a responsibility. They are working as quasi-public employees in an industry insulated from ordinary competition. They took no pay cuts during the recession. They have unusual job security. With all that, they have a duty to be reasonable.
Teamsters Local 117 argues that it is unfair that recycled-trash haulers start at $2.50 an hour less than the garbage drivers. The union's solution is to raise up the recycle drivers. The same logic would justify the lowering of wages of the garbage drivers and meeting somewhere in the middle, but the suggested solution is upward only. Besides, Waste Management has signed a deal with its garbage haulers (though they strike anyway, to support the recycle haulers).
The recycle drivers are not doing too poorly. According to the company, most of them have a base pay of $21.92 an hour plus $3.85 for pension. The company also pays $1,083 per employee per month in health benefits. These numbers are bound to go up; the question is only how much.
Be reasonable, get it done, and end the stink of delay.
Information in this editorial, originally published July 31, 2012, was corrected Aug. 1, 2012. Garbage-truck drivers at Waste Management earn about $2.50 an hour more than the recycle-truck drivers. The original editorial misstated the difference.