Strike could stall Waste Management trash pickup

SEATTLE — A decision by Waste Management’s union drivers to go on strike Wednesday could disrupt service for customers in Snohomish County and elsewhere.

The labor dispute involves more than 150 Puget Sound-area yard-waste and recycling drivers with Teamsters Local 117. About 20 of them are Snohomish County-based.

Picket lines went up at several Waste Management facilities around 10 a.m.

“Some customers received service today and some did not,” Waste Management spokeswoman Robin Freedman said Wednesday.

The length of the strike is unknown. While the labor dispute now involves yard waste and recycling drivers, it could spread to garbage pickup if those drivers walk out in support.

Talks over a new six-year contract broke down in June. The union wants higher pay to match garbage truck drivers, who reportedly earn $9 more per hour than recycling drivers.

Waste Management said its final offer to the drivers included an average wage and benefit increase of more than 4 percent per year. That would give the average recycling driver more than $98,000 in compensation in the final year of the new contract, according to the company.

The union has complained to the National Labor Relations Board about alleged violations by the company including bad-faith bargaining, coercion of employees and threats of retaliation.

Freedman said Waste Management is “very confident that the National Labor Relations Board will find them to be without merit.”

Teamsters Local 117 says its workers should be fairly compensated for doing dangerous work that sometimes has resulted in on-the-job deaths.

“We call on Waste Management to return to the bargaining table immediately and bargain a fair contract in good faith that recognizes the health and safety hazards its drivers face on the job,” Local 117 Secretary-Treasurer Tracey Thompson said in a statement.

During the strike, Waste Management encourages customers to place their bins at the curb according to normal collection schedules. If materials are not collected by the end of the day, the company said it will collect a double load on the next collection day.

Affected Snohomish County routes involve 115,000 customers in Arlington, Granite Falls, Mill Creek, Mountlake Terrace, Marysville, Mukilteo and large parts of unincorporated Snohomish County.

The company is encouraging people to check for service updates at www.wmnorthwest.com and to keep an eye on the news. The union is asking people and businesses to go to www.seattletrashwatch.org for updates and to call 800-230-7418 to report yard waste, recycling or garbage service disruptions.

The Associated Press contributed to this report. Noah Haglund: 425-339-3465, nhaglund@hearldnet.com.

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