Teamsters, Waste Management Still at Odds

By Rio Bauce
Tuesday July 10, 2007

Waste Management of Alameda County and Teamsters Local 70, a union that represents drivers and equipment operators, aren’t making progress in negotiations of a new contract despite the company’s lockout of the union’s 481 members last Monday. The old contract expired June 30. 

The quarrel is over the new language proposed by Waste Management. Teamsters want to renew the previous contract for an additional five years, while Waste Management wants to include new language that increases the amount employees pay for healthcare, lessens the power and influence of unions, and establishes more stringent health and safety guidelines.  

In response to the disagreements, Waste Management has brought in 200 replacement workers from around the country. On their website, the company explains their position. 

“The company has tried for months to reach a new agreement with the union prior to the expiration of the old contract, without success,” according to the Waste Management of Alameda County website. “Waste Management of Alameda County has offered the Teamsters above-market wage and benefits increases that keep our employees among the highest paid in the industry. The company’s offer also provides for the highest level of safety standards, and ensures labor peace during the term of the contract.” 

Teamster Local 70’s Secretary-Treasurer Chuck Mack contends that the union will not strike, but says that it will not give in to company demands. 

“Our goal is to renew the old contract for another five years,” said Mack prior to a negotiation meeting with a federal negotiator yesterday. “We aren’t asking for anything new. We hope for the best today, but I haven’t seen any evidence that the company has changed its mind.” 

There have been 14 meetings between Waste Management and Teamsters Local 70, but no progress has been made. Union workers are furious with their employers and are asking for their jobs back. 

“I am not able to work,” said Tony Tedeschi, thirty-year employee of Waste Management. “I’ve had to file for unemployment for the first time in all these years. They’ve locked us out completely. I want to go back to work again. I’ve got bills to pay.” 

Additionally, Tedeschi accused the company of being hypocritical. 

“They’ve hired replacement drivers that are working unsafely,” said Tedeschi. “They aren’t wearing seat belts, they’re talking on their cell phones. In other words, the new workers are doing the same thing that the company says they want to stop, but they aren’t getting punished. In addition, they’re mixing green waste, recycling, and garbage. It’s all going to landfill.” 

Oakland Mayor Ron Dellums said in a statement: “I understand the hardship this lock-out is creating for residents in Oakland. We’re pursuing every legal remedy, applying pressure on both sides to come to an agreement, and we’re looking at alternative ways to have the garbage collected.” 

Last week, the Central Labor Council of Alameda County, AFL-CIO granted picketline sanction to Teamsters Local 70 at Waste Management facilities around Alameda County. 

“The issue here is the right to honor picket lines and the right to collective bargaining,” said Sharon Cornu, executive secretary-treasurer of the 100,000-member AFL-CIO Labor Council, representing 130 local unions. “The company has been blowing smoke about a variety of side issues, while their real goal is to stop union brothers and sisters from supporting each other and bargaining good contracts. They picked the wrong place and the wrong members for this fight. Labor, community and political leaders are resolutely behind the workers from all three unions.” 

In a letter dated June 29, Waste Management threatened the Machinists Local Lodge 1546 with “permanent replacement” if they honored the Local 70 picket line, which would result in work stopping. 

Pickup complaints should be directed to the City of Oakland Recycling Hotline 238-SAVE (7283) for both garbage and recycling service issues.