OAKLAND, Calif. — As Waste Management of Alameda County’s lockout of nearly 500 union drivers entered its third week, mountains of garbage continued to grow in many parts of Oakland and neighboring communities. Solidarity with the members of Teamsters Local 70 continued to grow as well, as government, communications, transit, health care, and service workers, along with members of ACORN, joined the drivers, machinists, landfill, clerical and recycling workers on the picket lines they set up after the company locked out the drivers on July 2.

After a weeklong gap, union and Waste Management negotiators held talks with a federal mediator July 16. Talks were to resume July 18. Oakland Mayor Ronald Dellums, who helped restart negotiations, said he was “cautiously optimistic,” and Local 70 leader Chuck Mack called the session productive. Meanwhile, the city of Oakland has sued the company, charging it has breached its contract and created a public nuisance.

“It’s bold of Waste Management to lock out the East Bay workers and then to mislead the public about what they will do to pick up trash,” Mack said in a telephone interview. “They promised to send trucks over the weekend; they sent out 30 trucks on Saturday and none on Sunday.”

Asked about the lockout’s potential significance for contract talks elsewhere in the country, Mack responded, “If they can muscle up here, it sends a message that ‘we did it to one of the strongest union worksites and we can do it to you, too.’”

For several hours July 16, longshore workers at the Port of Oakland honored a picket line the teamsters set up after a Waste Management truck driven by replacement workers entered the Maersk SeaLand terminal. Union members also honored picket lines Local 70 set up at Waste Management facilities in the northern California communities of Walnut Creek, Stockton and Sonora.

Support for the locked-out workers was demonstrated dramatically at a July 11 rally that drew several hundred labor and community participants to Waste Management’s Davis Street facility in San Leandro.

Amid expressions of support from area elected officials, Machinists union leader Don Crosatto pointed to Waste Management’s long-term agenda. “They want to break up the bargaining units; there are over 100 of them around the U.S.,” he said. “They don’t want them talking to each other; they sure don’t want them negotiating together. If they succeed in fragmenting us, they will systematically destroy us.”

Crosatto’s union, Machinists Lodge 1546, was also in negotiations for a new contract after its former agreement with Waste Management expired.

As the rally broke up, customer service representative Diana Hernandez, a member of International Longshore and Warehouse Union Local 6, told the World, “We have to be strong in our support for the Teamsters. We’re family, basically. What affects them now will affect us when our next contract talks come up.”

Key issues in the talks between the Teamsters and Waste Management, which had been underway for several months before the June 30 contract expiration and the July 2 lockout, are the company’s effort to shift more health care costs to workers, its attempt to end workers’ rights to appeal alleged safety violations, and a proposed “no strike, no lockout” clause the workers say would keep them from honoring other unions’ picket lines.

Waste Management of Alameda County serves 200,000 homes and 9,000 businesses in 10 cities. The company is the country’s largest solid waste firm, with some 21 million residential, industrial, municipal and commercial customers in the United States and Canada.

Waste Management maintains a team of replacement workers who are ready to go anywhere in the country, for extra pay, during labor disputes.

mbechtel @pww.org