Exhausted but happy after their week-long garbage strike against Waste Management, Teamsters Local 117 credited local mayors — especially Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn — for bringing Waste Management back to the bargaining table by vowing to collect fines for missed collections.
“Behind the scenes, we’re being told that was really instrumental in getting Waste Management back to the table. That’s what pushed them,” said Heather Weiner, political action director for Washington Teamsters Joint Council 28. Local 117, which represents the 153 recycle drivers who went on strike July 25, overwhelmingly approved a new six-year contract with the company Thursday morning.
Weiner said the calculus of the strike changed when the mayors of Federal Way and Seattle said they intended to hold the company accountable for missed collections.
The cities’ contracts with Waste Management allow them to impose fines for every service missed. Those fines could have amounted to $1.25 million a day in Seattle alone. When the mayors made clear their intention to collect those fines, the strike became more expensive for the company, Weiner said.
“We don’t like the idea of the fines, but were well of aware of those obligations,’’ Waste Management spokeswoman Robin Freedman said in an email. “ I believe our drivers—garbage and recycling drivers wanted to get back to work. That is a long time to go without a paycheck.”
Weiner had special praise for McGinn, who held a press conference Wednesday morning to describe his plan for documenting missed collections around the city, and who vowed to return “every penny” of the fines to customers in the form of reduced bills.
“We’ve had our differences with the mayor, but he stood up and did what he thought was best for the city,” she said. “We’re very grateful that he decided to be public about enforcing the contract. ”
Within hours of the press conference, she said, the company was back at the negotiating table.
Seattle dispatched inspectors to neighborhoods to check for garbage, food/yard waste and recycling that went uncollected Wednesday. Fines will be assessed against the company for materials that were missed Wednesday. No fines will be levied for materials missed Thursday.