Union denies report of new proposal in garbage strike



SEATTLE - Striking Teamsters denied late Monday a report from earlier in the day that it had made a proposal to Waste Management to end a six-day strike that has disrupted waste and recycling pickups for more than 200,000 customers in the Seattle-Everett area.


The Associated Press, citing Local 117 spokeswoman Brenda Wiest, reported that the union floated a proposal with a federal mediator Sunday night, and that the proposal was confidential. Later in the day, however, the union denied that report to KIRO 7.


The AP also, citing Waste Management spokeswoman Robin Freedman, reported the company was reviewing the idea Monday, but KIRO 7 could not obtain comment from the company.


No talks have been scheduled.


Replacement drivers called in as strike continues


Video from KIRO 7 Eyewitness News showed a bus arriving at the Waste Management facility in South Seattle early Monday that reporter Alexandra Limon said was full of replacement drivers.


The strike began with a walkout by about 150 recycling and yard waste truck drivers represented by Local 117. Garbage truck drivers represented by Teamsters 174 won't cross the picket lines.


The replacement drivers are focusing on commercial customers such as restaurants. Garbage is piling up for most residential customers who typically leave recycling, yard waste and garbage bins by the side of the road for weekly pickups.


They have been told to wait for the next collection day and trucks will pick up a double load. Renton residents also are a priority because they're on an every-other-week schedule.


Both sides dig in


Picketing at six Waste Management lots, transfer stations and even trucks in neighborhoods will continue until the company agrees to meaningful negotiations, Wiest said.


The company said it would resume talks when the picket lines come down. The union contends that work might have resumed this week if the company had agreed to talk on Saturday. 


"We are trying to utilize every tool to work with the employer and every time we turn it seems like they are trying to thwart the process," Wiest said.


Waste Management could face possible fines of $1.25 million a day if the service failure lasts more than a week, said Timothy Croll, solid waste director for Seattle Public Utilities.


The strike would pass that deadline Wednesday, and city crews will be documenting any missed pickups on Thursday, he said.


Any fines would be assessed in the September payment on the contract, which is worth $36 million a year.


Waste Management has the contract to collect waste in 60 percent of the city.


"The company is well aware of the choices they could make," Croll said. "One is settling; another is replacement drivers."


Waste Management's contract with Local 117 expired at the end of May. The union wants to close a gap of about $9 an hour between the pay of its recycling truck drivers and the garbage truck drivers of Local 174.


Waste Management is offering a six-year deal it says would raise average salaries from $58,000 to $68,000 a year. If benefits are included, the offer is worth $98,000 a year to a driver at the end of the sixth year, the company said.