Workers’ Correspondence

UPPER ARLINGTON, Ohio – The city council here had planned a quick union-busting decision to privatize waste collection, a sweet-heart deal with non-union Texas-based Inland Waste Service. They figured to give the swift boot to the Teamsters Local 284 workers who’d done that work in UA for over 50 years.

What they clearly didn’t plan on was the huge angry crowd of UA residents that demonstrated and packed the council meeting at the end of last month.

Over 300 residents and unionists showed up on that frigid night, disrupting the best laid union-busting plans of the arrogant council leadership. Many of the UA residents carried petitions, which were quickly filled, calling for recall of the council members who’d voted to contract out this work.

“We’ve got the best waste collection workers in the entire nation,” committee leader Michael Schadek told the crowd. “As UA and American citizens, we’ve demanded the right to vote on this. They know how people would vote and, like dictators always do, they are denying our democratic right to vote. We will have the last say, however!”

The cheering crowd responded with chants of “Let Us Vote” and “Recall!” Signs in the crowd read: “Contract out council, not our workers,” “Fire council, not our workers,” “Let us vote,” “Send council to Texas” and “We’ll not be denied!”

When the council meeting began, Schadek, speaking for the residents, demanded that council listen to the voices of the people they are supposed to represent and allow a vote on the waste collection decision. That brought forth cheers from the packed room, and council President Don Leach tried to adjourn the meeting. The audience responded with deafening chants of “Recall, recall.”

This behavior was Leach’s regular modus operandi (MO). He had cut off discussion on this issue at the previous council meeting, pushing the privatization through as an “emergency” measure.

Leach ignored pleas that the privatization will put special burdens upon seniors and disabled residents since it will cut off back door service, a service that had so endeared union workers to the residents. He also ignored a two-year long study by the city that had determined contracting out service would not be in the city’s interest.

Leach stated that the privatization was “a done deal.” The residents’ committee is planning to take the issue to a referendum vote, as well as a recall drive on the council members.

The protest was supported by Columbus area Jobs with Justice coalition and the AFL-CIO. “We’ll be back,” said JwJ leader Jim Tackett, “and we’ll be here whenever the residents and the union ask us to help.”

Upper Arlington previously had been known as a bastion of fairly well-to-do conservative, Republican politics. However, in recent years more progressive trends have been more prominent. This is the first time in memory that a rally was held with residents and unionists in UA. It’s clear, however, that it won’t be the last time!

— Bruce Bostick, steel worker, Columbus, Ohio.