Public input sought on garbage strike

The state commission that oversees the garbage industry has scheduled a meeting in Woodinville on Thursday to gather public comments about service during the trash strike that ended last week.

The meeting comes just after the Washington Utilities and Transportation Commission’s announcement that it had opened a formal investigation into Waste Management’s ability to serve its customers during the eight-day strike by Teamsters drivers.

So far, the commission has received more than 50 customer complaints.

“Most of them were complaining about the missed pickups,” commission spokeswoman Amanda Maxwell said.

Part of the commission’s investigation will focus on whether Waste Management restored service more quickly to cities that contract directly with the company for service than in unincorporated areas where the state oversees trash collection. A common strike-related complaint has been having to pay the full trash or recycling bill for the days that customers went without service.

There is no deadline for finishing the state investigation.

Thursday’s meeting at Woodville City Council Chambers is the only public forum the state has planned to discuss service during the strike.

The program begins at 4 p.m. with a Waste Management presentation about its strike-response strategy. Customers have a chance to comment starting at 5 p.m.

People also are encouraged to submit comments by phone, mail, email or online.

The strike began July 25, when more than 150 yard-waste and recycling drivers from Teamsters Local 117 took to the picket lines over the failure to forge a new six-year contract. Garbage drivers soon joined them in support. Service was affected for more than 200,000 residential and commercial customers in Snohomish and King counties.

The picket lines extended briefly to a Skagit County facility, affecting service in north Snohomish County and on Camano Island.

Without its union drivers, Waste Management brought in new workers from outside the region. The company focused on commercial routes, particularly those with facilities such as hospitals, nursing homes and day cares that have the biggest impact on public health.

Union drivers began to return to work Thursday, after agreeing to accept a new contract. On Saturday, the company put extra trucks on the road to collect on residential routes missed earlier in the week.

“We’re pretty much all caught up now except for a couple of small pockets,” Tim Crosby, a district manager for Waste Management, told the Snohomish County Council during an update Monday.

Noah Haglund: 425-339-3465, nhaglund@heraldnet.com.

Comment on strike

Waste Management customers are invited to comment in person Thursday on service during the recently concluded Teamsters strike.

Where: Woodinville City Council Chambers, 17301 133rd Ave. NE, Woodinville, 98072.

When: Presentation by Waste Management at 4 p.m.; public comment at 5 p.m.

The Washington Utilities and Transportation Commission is conducting the meeting as part of formal investigation into trash service during the strike. The commission also accepts written comments at PO Box 47250 Olympia, 98504, online comments at www.utc.wa.gov, e-mailed comments at comment@utc.wa.gov or phoned-in comments at 888-333-WUTC (9882). People may call the same number to determine whether they are a UTC-regulated customer.

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