Wide support for garbage workers

OAKLAND, Calif. — As Waste Management, Inc.’s lockout of garbage workers in Alameda County communities entered its fourth week, union pickets at the company’s headquarters here were more determined than ever.

In a conversation sometimes overwhelmed by car and truck horns blaring solidarity, Francisco, a 19-year garbage truck driver, said support for the locked-out workers from other unions and the public has been overwhelming.

“When we go back, we’ll have to work extra hard to clean up the mess so our customers will be happy,” he said.

As talks between Teamsters Local 70 and Waste Management continued with a federal mediator, the company claims replacement workers have brought things back to normal. But in the last week the city has received over 550 complaints, and over 2,300 since the lockout began July 2. Other cities have experienced similar problems.

Waste Management, the nation’s largest solid waste firm, wants to shift more health costs to workers, impose a “no strike, no lockout” clause, and strip the right to appeal from workers allegedly violating safety rules.

The Amalgamated Transit Union, whose members include bus drivers and other area transit workers, was well represented on the picket line July 23, together with the Teamsters, the Machinists, and recycling, landfill and clerical workers at Waste Management who are honoring their picket lines.

“We have to stand together. The tactics they’re using on the garbage workers could someday be used on us,” said ATU recording secretary Rebecca Jones. She added that the money Waste Management is spending on bringing in replacement workers, housing them in hotels and providing security guards “could fund the garbage workers’ medical benefits for five or ten years.”

ATU staff member Doutje Schuler called the lockout of workers who had pledged to work during the talks “immoral and cruel,” and said she opposes companies having the right to shut workers out of their livelihoods.

mbechtel @pww.org