Waste Management Bringing in Replacement Workers from Out of State Instead of Bargaining with Seattle Teamsters

Striking Waste Management workers in Seattle braced for a showdown yesterday when an estimated 200 replacement workers were expected to arrive for their first day on the job. Complaints from customers and threats from the city have forced Waste Management to resume regular garbage pickup, but rather than negotiate with striking Teamster members they decided to bring in help/scabs from out-of-state.

“The company wants us to cave, because we see replacement workers doing our jobs,” says union driver Brent Barrett.

It’s not a dramatic face-off — so far — but the drivers on the picket line say it’s emotional.

“They’re trying to take our jobs, that’s what it feels like,” says Barrett.

On Sunday, workers made new signs and prepared for Monday’s standoff. The striking workers see the use of replacement workers as a negotiating tactic and won’t let them take their jobs without fight:

“We are unified in our fight and … we’re willing to go to the lengths of standing in front of trucks to get our point across,” says Barrett.

The replacement workers were deemed necessary by Waste Management after it was threatened with $1.25 million daily fines by Seattle Public Utilities. In other affected areas of King and Snohomish counties, similar clauses are written into contracts meaning the fine total could reach closer to $3 million per day. Waste Management is not gaining favor among local businesses who are beginning to worry about the growing amounts of trash.

“It’s a disaster,” said Johanna Limberopoulos, manager of The Rusty Pelican restaurant in Wallingford, which her parents own.

The restaurant’s trash bin, in the back parking lot, is beginning to overflow, she said.

“After today, there’s going to be garbage all over the parking lot. What are we going to do? It’s a mess.”

Waste Management has said that if they can get trucks out on Monday their focus will be on commercial customers, meaning garbage will continue to collect at houses throughout the region. On Friday and Saturday, striking workers said they would go back on the job if they saw that Waste Management was negotiating in good faith. With replacement workers being brought in, though, the so-called negotiations appear headed in the wrong direction.

“We’ll stand down while bargaining is happening, and if good-faith bargaining is occurring, we will stop the strike and go back to work to get the deal done,” said Teamsters representative Brenda Weist.

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