Teamsters sanitation workers picket private firm in 19 cities

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (PAI) – Some 1,000 Teamsters sanitation workers picketed a private refuse company, Republic/Allied Waste, in 19 cities nationwide on Oct. 25 to protest the firm’s intimidation of workers, its refusal to honor contracts and its schemes to cut workers’ pensions.

The lead confrontation in October was in Memphis, where Republic “has flown in dozens of supervisors and non-union drivers from all over the country during the past few weeks, to intimidate workers and try to convince the community that garbage will be picked up even if the company locks out its workers,” the union said.

Before that, the firm locked out the union in Evansville, Ind., in May, and forced members of Local 991 in Mobile, Ala., to strike in March to get the firm to implement a contract both the union and management had already ratified.

The Teamsters did not strike on Oct. 25. Their informational picket signs in Memphis, Evansville, Ind., and elsewhere read “Just Practicing.”

The union members are also confronting an increasing trend in local governments, where cash-strapped municipalities outsource public services to private firms, which try to increase their profits by cutting corners on workers’ wages and benefits.

Republic/Allied Waste locked out 80 members of Teamsters Local 215 in Evansville for six weeks, the union said. The firm wanted to destroy the workers’ pensions. Republic brought in “replacement” drivers whose misdriving of sanitation trucks “damaged people’s homes, vehicles and even power lines during the lockout.”

“What kind of company bullies its workers like this – letting them and their families go without paychecks for weeks and months?” Local 215 President Chuck Whobrey asked then.

“Allied Waste/Republic Services was willing to destroy the hard-earned retirement security of its front-line workers here in the Evansville area. The company tried to starve these workers into agreeing to give up their pension plan and put their families’ futures at risk. Sanitation workers don’t get much recognition, but they deserve a secure retirement.”

Besides Memphis, Mobile and Evansville, Teamsters also held informational picketing in Urbana, Ill., Youngstown and Cleveland, Ohio, Detroit, Flint and Adrian, Mich., Fremont, Daly City, Fairfield, Gardena, Long Beach and Anaheim, Calif., Revere, Mass., Atlanta, Bellevue, Wash., and Buffalo, N.Y.

Photo: Teamsters Local 991, Mobile, Ala.


Mark Gruenberg
Mark Gruenberg

Mark Gruenberg is head of the Washington, D.C., bureau of People's World. He is also the editor of Press Associates Inc. (PAI), a union news service in Washington, D.C. that he has headed since 1999. Previously, he worked as Washington correspondent for the Ottaway News Service, as Port Jervis bureau chief for the Middletown, NY Times Herald Record, and as a researcher and writer for Congressional Quarterly. Mark obtained his BA in public policy from the University of Chicago and worked as the University of Chicago correspondent for the Chicago Daily News.