Garbage, recycling pickup disruption looms as talks stall
Recycling and garbage service through much of King and Snohomish counties could be disrupted if negotiations between Waste Management and its recycling drivers remain stalled.
Seattle Times staff reporter
Pickup of recycling, and maybe garbage, for up to 280,000 residential and commercial customers could stop or be delayed next week if one of the area's largest waste-service providers and a drivers union don't reach a contract agreement.
Waste Management made what it called a final offer to Teamsters Local 117 last week after more than five months of negotiations. Two hours later, the union responded with an alternative proposal that the company refused to consider.
"While we are willing to discuss our last, best and final (proposal) with the union, we have gone as far as we intend to go financially," said Robin Freedman, director of communications for the company's area branch.
Teamsters Local 117 — which picks up recycling and yard waste — plans to meet Saturday morning, along with garbage-truck drivers from Teamsters Local 174, to discuss the proposal. The drivers could vote on it, reattempt negotiations or vote for a strike.
When Local 174 went on strike for 36 hours in 2010, Local 117 joined it. If both unions choose to strike, both garbage and recycling services would be affected in much of South Seattle and Northwest Seattle, as well as in unincorporated areas of King and Snohomish counties.
Service-area maps can be found at www.wmnorthwest.com/seattle.
Tracey Thompson, secretary-treasurer for Local 117, said Waste Management has brought in members of its Green Team to follow drivers on their routes the past few weeks and has hired a security staff from a company that specializes in lockouts and strikes. She said the Green Team is a company group of drivers often brought in to take over service when there's a strike.
Freedman refused to comment on this. Avoiding the word "strike," she said Waste Management has contingency plans for various causes of disrupted service.
Along with increases in benefits, Waste Management is proposing to increase hourly pay by $5.10 by the end of the six-year deal. But Thompson of Local 117 said that's not enough when garbage-truck drivers' hourly pay is already $6.12 higher.
"The gap is continuing to grow because the garbage drivers are continuing to get raises," Thompson said.
It's unfair, she said, because recycling-truck drivers work the same routes, use the same equipment and face the same risks.
She said the request is reasonable because Waste Management has seen profits increase through the economic downturn, thanks to the hard work of those same drivers.
Tensions in negotiations rose when Local 117 ratified a five-year contract June 2 with competitor Allied Waste that made compensation even between their recycling and garbage drivers, Thompson said.
Waste Management's proposal also includes improvements to benefits and a $2,000 bonus for recycling-truck drivers if the proposal is approved this weekend.
Jayme Fraser: 206-464-2201 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
On Twitter @jaymekfraser