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July 25, 2012 at 12:24 PM

Waste Management recycling and yard-waste drivers strike

Trash collection came to a halt in much of King and Snohomish counties today as garbage-truck drivers refused to cross picket lines set up by striking drivers of recycling and yard-waste trucks.

The strike, which appears likely to affect pickups on Thursday as well, is affecting about 220,000 households in Seattle, Redmond, Mountlake Terrace and 11 other cities and some unincorporated areas, Waste Management reported.

Customers whose waste wasn’t collected by 6 p.m. today were by advised to put their carts away until the next scheduled pickup. Those with Thursday pickups should put their carts out as normal.

Yard-waste and recycling drivers represented by Teamsters Local 117 drivers set up picket lines at Waste Management facilities at 10 a.m., the union said in a news release.

The union said 153 drivers have been working without a contract since May 31, and voted unanimously June 2 to authorize a strike over what the union said were company violations of federal labor laws in a dispute over health and safety issues.

The strike could affect service to about 60 percent of recycling and yard-waste customers in Seattle, concentrated in the northwest and some southern parts of the city, Seattle Public Utilities spokesman Andy Ryan said. He said at the time he had no indication Teamster-represented garbage drivers were also halting work.

City officials expect the parties to the dispute “to continue to engage in good-faith negotiations towards a speedy and successful outcome,” Ryan said.

Under its contract with Seattle, Waste Management can be fined $4,500 a day for failing to make scheduled collections. Fines can be increased to $250,000 a day if the strike continues more than a week.

Kirkland, which contracts with Waste Management throughout the city, said in a release the company would implement a strike contingency plan if drivers don’t return to work by Thursday. Under that plan, Waste Management would seek to restore service to “critical customers” such as hospitals, nursing homes and day-care centers.

Waste Management spokesman Robin Freedman said in a statement company officials were “perplexed” that drivers went on strike, “especially considering the fair and generous last, best and final package” offered four weeks ago. Freedman said union leaders had chosen “political gamesmanship” over allowing members to vote on the contract offer.

Teamsters Local 117 Secretary-Treasurer Tracey Thompson said in a statement that Waste Management “has forced this dispute through its blatant disregard of U.S. law.” The union said the National Labor Relations Board is investigating allegations the company bargained in bad faith, dealt directly with workers, threatened to retaliate against them and unilaterally changed working  conditions.

Residential customers are affected in Algona, Auburn, Bothell, Burien, Federal Way, Kirkland, Maple Valley, Marysville, Mill Creek, Mountlake Terrace, Newcastle, Redmond, Renton and more than half of Seattle, Waste Management reported. Collections also were disrupted in areas state-regulated collection areas of Fairwood, Federal Way/Auburn, Index, Mountlake Terrace/Brier, Snohomish and Woodinville.

Comments | More in General news, Government | Topics: strike, Teamsters, Waste Management

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