Oakland Sues over Uncollected Garbage

Bay City News
Friday July 13, 2007

Oakland City Attorney John Russo filed a lawsuit in Alameda County Superior Court Thursday to seek a court order compelling Waste Management of Alameda County to collect garbage that has piled up since it locked out its employees on July 2. 

Joining Russo at a news conference at City Hall that also was attended by six City Council members, Mayor Ron Dellums said uncollected garbage, recycling materials and compost “poses a clear and compelling health and safety issue,” citing potential contamination from flies and rats. 

A spokeswoman for Waste Management of Alameda County said Thursday 

that Oakland’s lawsuit was “unnecessary” because the company has already restored weekly residential garbage, yard waste and commercial waste collection services. 

Company spokeswoman Jennifer Andrews said Waste Management also  

will resume regular curbside recycling services Monday. 

“We’ve increased the number of temporary workers and are back to  

100 percent” service levels, Andrews said. 

Russo said the city has received more than 1,000 emails and phone calls from residents complaining about uncollected trash. 

He said, “We are entirely within our contract rights and California state law to demand this health and safety issue be addressed immediately. We have a duty to protect Oakland’s people and businesses. This situation has gone on long enough.” 

Russo said the city filed suit only after many formal and informal talks over ten days failed to resolve the problem. 

In the East Bay, Waste Management serves Albany, Emeryville, Oakland, Hayward, Newark, Livermore, the Castro Valley Sanitary District, Oro Loma Sanitary District in parts of San Leandro and San Lorenzo, San Ramon and unincorporated Alameda County. 

Talks for a new contract with more than 500 employees who work in the East Bay began in March. Waste Management said it locked out the employees because it feared they would go on strike. 

The company and union representatives met with a federal mediator Monday but didn’t make any progress. 

Waste Management said that it has restored full service, but City Councilwoman Jean Quan said “garbage is still not being picked up.” 

Russo said there will be a court hearing Monday on the city’s bid to get an injunction against Waste Management. 

But he said the city will drop or at least postpone its litigation if it’s convinced Waste Management has truly restored full service. 

“This is not a lawsuit I want to win—it’s a problem I want to solve,” Russo said.