County trash haulers authorize strike if contract expires

  • Sun Mar 28th, 2010 10:32pm
  • News

Associated Press

SEATTLE — Hundreds of unionized garbage haulers in King and Snohomish counties have voted to authorize a strike if their contract dispute isn’t settled this week.

Teamsters Local 174 announced the results of the strike vote Sunday. The union represents more than 450 trash haulers for Waste Management and about 100 more for Allied Waste.

The vote means a strike could be called as soon as midnight Wednesday, when contracts covering garbage haulers for more than 1 million local homes and businesses expire. If a strike occurs, the companies are expected to bring in workers from around the country to continue garbage service.

“We do not believe a strike would be good for the Local or members of the community,” Michael Gonzales, spokesman for Teamsters Local 174, told The Seattle Times. “But at this point, it seems to be where the companies are pushing us.”

The local has asked for a federal mediator to help in its contract talks with Waste Management and was scheduled to begin another round of negotiations with Allied Waste on Sunday afternoon.

If Local 174 strikes, so would about 300 members of Teamsters Local 117, which won’t cross the picket line.

The unions claim there are two issues at stake: rising health care premiums, and proposals by the companies to cut wages to help fund retirement benefits.

“That’s a situation our members just can’t agree to,” Gonzales said.

Waste Management argues the counties and cities they serve are experiencing unprecedented budget deficits, which in turn affects how much the company and employees are paid.