Strike at Allied Waste continues
By Jamison Cocklin
The gridlock between Republic Services/ Allied Waste and approximately 103 of its Youngstown employees continued Friday, as a strike that began early Thursday showed no sign of letting up.
Republic said it had brought in nonunion employees and supervisors from other regional divisions to prevent any delays in collecting recyclables and trash. A company spokesman said those efforts will continue throughout the weekend.
In some neighborhoods, Allied Waste trash cans have sat on the curbside since late Wednesday.
The company has more than 100,000 customers throughout the Mahoning Valley and Pennsylvania with multiple contracts in cities and townships across the region.
Meanwhile, Teamsters Local 377, which represents the Youngstown workers, was quiet Friday. Its offices were closed for the Easter holiday. Calls to both the local and the International Brotherhood of Teamsters in Washington, D.C., went unanswered.
At the heart of the impasse is a dispute over the workers’ contract. In October, they rejected Republic’s proposal to extend it, and they have been without one since.
Republic claimed Friday that the strike was unlawful.
The union, however, has said the company is violating federal labor laws by changing working conditions without bargaining and refusing to provide timely information related to the process.
Douglas Dunn, general manager of Republic Services in Youngstown, said Friday that the union has failed to make a wage proposal even though the company repeatedly has requested one. He also said “the Teamsters have simply stonewalled us on discussing pension issues.”
Workers are irate over a proposal to shift their retirement benefits from the failing Central States Pension Fund to a 401(k) program. Although Central States is expected to be insolvent by 2023, workers claim the move would reduce their benefits severely and decrease the company’s overall contribution.
Dunn added that requests to negotiate in “good faith” repeatedly have been denied by the union. The next negotiating session is scheduled for April 9.
Friday saw Republic touting a move in Michigan last weekend when about 320 Teamster employees in Michigan voted to leave the Central States Fund and move into the Western Conference of Teamsters Pension, which covers more than 230,000 active participants in 13 western states. Its funding is considered by actuaries to be strong.
Still, it remains unclear whether a move to that pension fund is an option for Republic’s Youngstown workers.
Ken Paff, a national organizer for Teamsters for a Democratic Union, an independent watchdog group, said the Teamsters International union has been weakened in recent years by the fractured interests of locals across the country. He added, however, that the union still has significant leverage with the company.
“When steel was moved offshore, it was different; with waste you can’t drive a trash truck in Indonesia and pick up trash in the United States,” Paff said.
Waste Management and Republic/Allied Waste have a strong lock on the American sanitary services industry. One estimate, from Standard & Poor’s, shows the companies have about 42 percent of the market share.