Strike over, rush on to haul off lots of stinky trash
Recycling and yard waste drivers for Waste Management are expected to report back to work Friday after voting to approve a new contract Thursday morning, ending an eight-day strike.
Seattle Times staff reporter
Tackling the backlog
Waste Management will announce special pickups of accumulated wastes each day at www.wmnorthwest.com/
Seattle residents in Waste Management's service area can dump up to six bags of garbage or yard waste for free at city transfer stations through Sunday.
Garbage drivers began cleaning up mounds of uncollected waste in Seattle on Thursday, eight days after walking off the job in support of striking recycling drivers in another union.
But recyclables and ripe food and yard waste accumulated for another day because only four of those more than 150 strikers went back to work after ratifying a new six-year contract Thursday morning, Waste Management reported.
With those drivers expected to work Friday, the company said it would accelerate its recovery efforts, restoring all regularly scheduled service and picking up specified wastes Friday at Renton, Burien and Fairwood homes whose regular collection day is Wednesday.
Drivers represented by Teamsters Local 117 on Thursday morning approved a contract negotiated Wednesday, as Waste Management, facing daily fines starting Wednesday of up to $1.25 million for collection failures in Seattle, said it planned to hire permanent replacement drivers.
"The company was going to invest heavily in replacement workers, and we were going to have to invest heavily in a long-term dispute. It was in both of our interests to settle," said Teamsters contract campaign coordinator Brenda Wiest.
Until the surprise announcement of a tentative deal late Wednesday, Waste Management had refused to bargain unless the union suspended the strike — something it had refused to do.
Mayor Mike McGinn vowed to enforce Seattle's contract with Waste Management, returning any fines in the form of lower bills to the company's 90,000 customers in parts of the city. The company serves 220,000 homes and businesses in King and South Snohomish counties.
Seattle Public Utilities inspectors haven't yet determined how much money they will seek from Waste Management for uncollected waste.
Washington Teamsters Joint Council 28 Political Action Director Heather Weiner credited local mayors — especially McGinn — for helping to end the strike.
"Behind the scenes, we're being told that was really instrumental in getting Waste Management back to the table. That's what pushed them," Weiner said.
Waste Management spokeswoman Robin Freedman said the strike ended because "I think our workers really wanted to come back to work."
Ronald Knox, a labor lawyer not involved in the dispute, said Waste Management likely was motivated by the prospect of fines and Teamsters by the prospect of permanent replacements taking their jobs.
"I think it was a victory for both sides that they got back to work and they got back to the table. A prolonged strike in this economy is not good for anyone," Knox said.
The contract approved Thursday gives the recycling-drivers union a total $500,000 more in pay and benefits over six years than the company's "final" offer in June, Wiest said.
She said the new contract increases employer contributions to a pension fund and caps employee health-care costs.
However, Freedman said Drivers will receive the same compensation under the ratified contract as under the earlier offer — but will get their first pay raise six months sooner.
Average yearly earnings, including overtime, will rise from $58,000 to $68,000 with benefits of about $30,000, Freedman said. She said drivers won't receive a $2,000 signing bonus the company previously offered.
Staff reporter Susan Kelleher contributed to this story.
Keith Ervin: 206-464-2105 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Information in this article, originally published Aug. 3, 2012, was corrected Aug. 4, 2012. A previous version of this story, because of an editing error, incorrectly attributed information noting that drivers would get raises six months sooner under the new contract.