Waste Management Drivers Strike

Members of Teamsters Local 117 says the company has been intimidating workers and refusing to bargain in good faith, and pickets have been set up at several local facilities including Woodinville.


Charging that Waste Management is intimidating employees and engaging in other unfair labor practices, the company’s recycling and yard waste truck drivers went on strike Wednesday morning, setting up pickets at several facilities. 

Contract talks between Waste Management, which maintains its regional headquarters in Kirkland, and Teamsters Local 117 broke down last month. The 153 drivers have been working without a contract since the previous one expired on May 31.

Paul Zilly, Local 117 spokesman, said that the company has been threatening, coercing and retaliating against workers and that the strike will continue until it returns to the bargaining table.

“It’s going to take Waste Management returning to the bargaining table and bargaining in good faith,” he said. “They have refused to do that and have refused to listen to listen to our offer. This dispute is about Waste Management refusing outright to bargain with our members in good faith.”

A press release by Local 177 said the National Labor Relations Boards is investigating several violations by the company.

Zilly said the drivers want a contract comparable to that of other drivers in the industry. The Local 117 press release said driving waste trucks is a dangerous job and that since 2005, four Local 117 members in the industry have been killed on the job.

Many of the drivers were out on their routes when the union called the strike at 10 a.m., so many Waste Management customers did receive service Wednesday morning. Parts of Woodinville will not get trash picked up Wednesday.

The Local 117 press release urged residents and businesses served by Waste Management to call 1-800-230-7418 to report recycle, yard waste, and garbage service disruptions and visit www.seattletrashwatch.org for updates and information. Customers can also get service updates at the company website, www.wmnorthwest.com.

Patch has put in calls to Waste Management officials and will update this story as soon as they respond. In the past the company has denied Local 117 charges in the dispute and said it has offered drivers a total compensation package exceeding $98,000 in the final year of a new six-year contract.

For a previous  Patch story on the dispute, click here.

Thomas Liberty July 25, 2012 at 08:06 PM
Hello! Anybody home over there in union offices? You may have heard, but we're in a recession, and there are plenty of people willing to work those "slave" wage jobs which do not even require a GED. Here's a novel concept you might want to consider... if you want to get paid what others are drivers are getting paid, then quit WM and go get those jobs which are more in line with your desires.
Susan Milke July 25, 2012 at 09:40 PM
Thomas, And why are we in a recession. Not because of hard working union members, but greedy banksters who stole all our hard earn money, deleted our retirement accounts, stole our homes, crashed the economy. I could go on and on. This is their plan, bust the last few unions all over the country and mark my words, we will all be working for slave wages. Wake up!
Thomas Liberty July 25, 2012 at 10:10 PM
Thanks for the pseudo-economics lesson. I hate to digress into a discussion about the banking industry, and the unintended consequences of government "benevolence" and regulations, because i suspect you aren't up to it. As for your philosophy on freedom, labor and the marketplace, what is it? That business and municpalities have no rights to make their own financial decisions, and that they MUST give in to every demand that the unions make?Is it that some (unions) have more rights than others, and that other, supposedly FREE human beings, have no rights to make hiring, firing, wage, and benefits decisions without permission from you? To excuse unions from having any impact on our country's financial situation is weak at the least.
Thomas Liberty July 25, 2012 at 10:25 PM
One other thing Susan - what is the "right" wage and benefits amount? And how do you come to this number? People in my industry who must obtain advanced training, degrees, certifications and keep up on ever-changing technologies, barely make the same wages that these guys are asking for. How they can justfiy nearly $80-100,000 in wages for such menial work is insulting to those of us who must compete against others to remain valuable to our employers.
Ron Olson July 25, 2012 at 10:43 PM
It always ends the same way. Compromise. Just one time I would like to see the union or management follow through all the way to the end. No compromise, no judge stepping in. Just let supply and demand decide who prevails.
Susan Milke July 25, 2012 at 11:08 PM
"Thomas". I suggest you read a book called "The Iron Heel" by Jack London. It was first published in 1907. It foresees the struggle between the impoverished masses who do most of the world's work and the privileged minorities who live off the profits. It is exactly what is going on in our world today 100 years later. "Those who forget the past are doomed to repeat it". Maybe you could also use a history lesson on what the unions have brought us over the past hundred years instead of how much money they are making today. Trust me I would rather have my garbage picked up every week for $50/month instead of watching an overpaid baseball player get a hit every 4 times up at bat!
AaronBlues July 26, 2012 at 06:01 AM
Yeah, so I'm not the privileged minority, and I'd like you to do your job. Just like I do, every day.
AaronBlues July 26, 2012 at 06:02 AM
Oh, and Unions, thank you oh so much for making it far more attractive to ship jobs overseas. Awesome job you're doing.
AaronBlues July 26, 2012 at 06:03 AM
Further, can we see some details on the dispute so that we may judge for ourselves?
Ron Olson July 26, 2012 at 06:27 AM
Unions and their collective bargaining pressure have created a legal mob mentality that costs taxpayers millions of dollars. When businesses operate that way, they call it price fixing, which is illegal. You have a monopoly on collecting trash in my neighborhood and you have price fixed your wages as high as I will tolerate. Get your butt to work.
Annie Archer (Editor) July 26, 2012 at 03:48 PM
AronBlues, In addition to the claims of breaking labor laws the Local 117 is seeking equal pay with other drivers. Recycling drivers, start at about $17 an hour, garbage-truck-drivers make about $9 more per hour.
Jeanne Gustafson July 26, 2012 at 05:13 PM
I have a hard time imagining how we could outsource local sanitation overseas.
Thomas Liberty July 26, 2012 at 05:38 PM
I've not read it, but am very quite familiar with the plight of the American worker. While there is some legitimacy to complaints of workers in the early 1900's, i find no justification, for the demands constantly being made by today's union leadership. It is irrational and intellectually dishonest, to insinuate that labor complaints today are similar in their scope and context, to those of 100 years ago. As for the notion that only the "privileged minorities" are capable of achieving financial prosperity, at the expense of the "impoverished worker" - that is one of the biggest myths to come from the progressives, and the American labor movement. You are basically implying, that these truck drivers have no choice but to put themselves into a position of slavery - and that only the privileged few will benefit from their "exploitation". Do you really believe that we don't have opportunities in America to change our own circumstance, because of greedy employers? Does the truck driver have no liberty to choose his own trade, his employer, determine his own skillset or situation? This isn't a simple proletariat vs. bourgeois argument that you're trying to make it out as, and just perpetuates the fallacy, that we're all victims and have no influence over our condition. Also, Jack London was a great writer, but he was no economist, nor did he witness the total transformation of unions since his death. For pete's sake, he was a flaming anti-capitalist and socialist!
Annie Archer (Editor) July 26, 2012 at 05:43 PM
Thomas Liberty, looking at unemployment levels today and the amount of college graduates and teenagers unable to get jobs, I'd say there are not a lot of opportunity for jobs in American today. In this case, the workers are asking for equal pay and working conditions with their counterparts in the same company. It's about equal pay for equal work.
Annie Archer (Editor) July 26, 2012 at 07:21 PM
I'll be honest DaveR, my strong opinion is just that I am too lazy to deal with my own family's garbage/recycling/yard waste and am willing to pay someone else a comfortable wage to do the dirty work I do not want to do.
DaveR July 26, 2012 at 07:23 PM
Annie - clearly you have quite a strong opinion on this topic - fine. It would appear the union wants to have it both ways. WM established more realistic salary levels for their recycling haulers. If the union wants equity I suggest meeting half way. Raise the recycling driver wages somewhat and lower the trash hauler wages somewhat. Then determine how the employment market resonds, because right now there's quite a few people looking for work.
AaronBlues July 26, 2012 at 10:47 PM
Jeanne, my comment was far broader than local sanitation. However, the actions/rhetoric involved in this local case are echoed elsewhere unions are present (e.g. automotive manufacturing, etc). Further, while local sanitation obviously can't be shipped overseas, overseas workers could be shipped here, and would be willing to work for less than the current drivers are making. See: IT sector
DaveR July 26, 2012 at 11:02 PM
Fair - although there's nothing uncomfortable about what they are paid to do the work - AND, laziness has little to do with it in my opinion. What alternative do you really have? There's no competitive choice and hauling your own trash to the Houghton transfer station would likely cost even more and you'd have to store it for a month or so at a time to make it worthwhile which would create a public nuisance (at best).
Jeanne Gustafson July 26, 2012 at 11:23 PM
I understand what you're saying Aaron. Certain industries are more easily outsourced, like the ones you mentioned, but there are some jobs we simply don't want to do for a lot less money. I seem to remember a big issue last summer about apple farmers being absolutely unable to hire local workers to do the picking despite a great need for jobs, when imported labor was less available than in years past. I just took your broader statement and tried to apply it to the specific situation, and I'm not sure it pencils out as equal for me for a basic service like trash collection. I guess we could all haul our own trash to the transfer stations, as some folks in much more rural areas have to do.
Susan Milke July 26, 2012 at 11:32 PM
I am not sure why everyone thinks they make so much. If they are making $17 an hour (40 hour week) that is about $35,360 a year and $26 an hour is $54,080. (Seattle Times 7/26/12). Plus the dispute is over safety and health issues not just wages! So what are we talking about here. We all need to get our facts straight before we rant about unions and unreasonable demands! "Thomas" Don't know where you got the $80-100,000 figure. Any sources? "Ron" don't like the garbage service, you "Do" have choice. Collect your own garbage and take it to the transfer station yourself. Having one company provide garbage collection in our neighborhood just makes sense. Can you imagine if we have three different companies picking up trash on three or four different days a week what our neighborhoods would look and sound like?! Really! :) I will pay $50 a month for piece of mind and one company doing it!
AaronBlues July 26, 2012 at 11:49 PM
Your example regarding the apple farmers' issues is a good example, and I believe highlights the dangers of forcing shifts in labor. I'll explain: When I was young (growing up in Nebraska), I walked bean fields and worked on hog farms for roughly $5/hr. That was in the mid to late nineties, so not ancient history (yet). Would I have done it for $2/hr? Probably not. However, there was nothing that was going to drive the wage down that far. Fast forwarding to the apple farm issue, once business has grown accustomed to lower labor costs, they can't see a way to raise them back to where they may have been. It's similar to people getting raise after raise in life, and spending to their income, never getting ahead. Those same apple farmers were so used to low cost labor, they simply went without, because they couldn't afford to bring the wages up to first world standards. if they had never gone down in the first place however . . .
AaronBlues July 26, 2012 at 11:50 PM
If the dispute is also over safety . . . . what are the relevant proposals in that arena?
Annie Archer (Editor) July 26, 2012 at 11:54 PM
AronBlues, I have been trying all day to get Local 117 spokesperson to answer that question and to give us more details, but he has been swamped with the strike. I hope to have more tomorrow.
Susan Milke July 27, 2012 at 12:11 AM
Good question Aaron. I think we all need to know more about what the dispute is really about. Thanks Annie for asking someone. Hopefully we will find out more tomorrow. ( I really don't want my garbage not to be picked up next week! :)
Local Guy July 27, 2012 at 12:27 AM
Full agreement Dave. And let's be clear. They are NOT making $17 vs $24 an hour. They are making $17 vs $24 PLUS benefits. A very significant point not to be marginalized...
Susan Milke July 27, 2012 at 05:10 PM
The Seattle Times reported it incorrectly?! as they have $17 vs $9 starting out. And what is wrong with benefits? Do they have us so conditioned that getting benefits from you employer is a bad thing. Isn't that what most of us have or wish we had? Safety issue is covered in the Times this am. Haven't had time to read it, but FYI.
DaveR July 27, 2012 at 11:59 PM
Absolutely nothing is wrong with having benefits. Personally I believe everyone should have them one way or another - especially if we're talking about something that should be a human right, such as healthcare. Given that these whiners have benefits that many others out there do not then perhaps they might consider this as part of the package and not something to take lightly. Until such time as we have truly universal healthcare then it IS part of the compensation scheme whether you like it or not. I have 2 adult children, both college graduates, both working more than 40 hours a week, and neither has benefits and neither is making this very decent living that the trash haulers make.
Local Guy July 28, 2012 at 12:38 AM
" And what is wrong with benefits?" Nothing... Who implied otherwise?
Local Guy July 28, 2012 at 01:01 AM
If you concluded that from my comments, you are in error, in fact I am representing the the opposite. When posters make references to what drivers are being compensated, and marginalize benefit valuations through omission, it portrays an inaccurate representation of true value...


More »
Got a question? Something on your mind? Talk to your community, directly.
Note Article
Just a short thought to get the word out quickly about anything in your neighborhood.
Share something with your neighbors.What's on your mind?What's on your mind?Make an announcement, speak your mind, or sell somethingPost something