Some Puget Sound residents went without trash and recycling pickup for the second day in a row as local Republic Services workers stood in solidarity with striking workers from Massachusetts.
Massachusetts workers with Teamsters Local 25 went on strike Aug. 29. The union extended the picket line to the Puget Sound region Thursday because resident and Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates is a shareholder in the waste-management company. (A Gates spokesman did not respond to requests for comment.)
Around 250 workers here have honored the picket line, according to the union. Republic Services spokeswoman Donna Egan said the work stoppage has affected customers in Bellevue, Kent, Lynnwood and other Seattle-area communities. The union said the other affected cities are Renton, Edmonds, Sammamish, Maple Valley, Lake Forest Park, Clyde Hill and Medina, where Gates lives. Republic Services is the sole waste-management provider in most of those cities.
The company provided service to “critical customers” Friday. It plans to resume trash and recycling collection in Renton Saturday and in other affected Puget Sound cities next week, according to its website. Egan said “other Republic operations in the Seattle metro area are assisting with service.”
The Massachusetts workers, who have been in contract negotiations with the company, are calling for higher wages and better health care and retirement options, according to a union statement. Workers there said their pay doesn’t match cost of living in Massachusetts and the dangers faced on the job.
Republic Services, which acquired its former competitor Allied Waste, has denounced the union’s actions, saying workers already receive a competitive wage and benefit package. Egan said in an email that the Massachusetts strike “has nothing to do with any Washington employees” and it unfairly impacts customers here.
“It’s Local 25’s strike. Our members just have the choice whether to cross or honor the picket line, and they’ve overwhelmingly chosen to honor [it],” said Jamie Fleming, director of communications and research at Local 174, one of the four local Teamsters unions representing Republic Services workers.
Workers from Teamsters Locals 38, 117 and 763 have also chosen to honor the picket line.