Don't let Waste Management kick workers to the curb

Update: Recycle and Yard Waste drivers have reached a new 6 year deal with Waste Management. For more details visit Recycle and yard waste drivers, represented by Teamsters Local 117, voted to ratify a 6-year contract agreement this morning. The contract vote was held after a 9 A.M. meeting at the Teamsters building in Tukwila. The Local 117 leadership and bargaining committee fully recommended the proposal for ratification by the membership.

by Sage Wilson

It's the same old rhetorical tactic greedy employers recycle over & over again: Waste Management executives are trying to convince the public that the people who drive their trucks are living high on the hog, claiming that the "total compensation" of a truck driver is almost in the six figures.

Yeah, right. That must be why all the recycle trucks have bumper stickers that say "My other ride is an Aston-Martin".

It's obviously a bunch of a garbage, and it's frustrating that some reporters are letting the company get away with building a rats nest of confusion out of their rotten numbers without even having to break down where they come from.

For example, the Seattle Times recently cited a starting wage for a recycle driver of $17 an hour, which works out to about $34,000 a year. And yet they also seem to swallow the junk numbers Waste Management feeds them, also mentioning a $98,000 figure for a driver's "total compensation". So here's the sixty-four-thousand-dollar question: where did they get the extra $64,000 from? Clearly, it's rubbish. Because you definitely don't see a number anywhere near that on drivers' pay stubs.

But they say one man's trash is another man's treasure, and that's definitely true for Waste Management CEO David Steiner— he's shoveling millions a year into his bank account on the backs of sanitation workers and the rate-paying public. In fact, it turns out that his $5.19 million salary works out to a bit more than $98,000... every week. So maybe the corporate executives were trashed when they did the calculation, so they got themselves confused? Because it's obvious that the guy who's feeding like a pig at a trough is the one who's making 52 times more than a driver makes in their wildest fantasies.

And while you wouldn't glean this fact from the TV reports, sanitation work is among the most dangerous in the country. Since 2005, four Puget Sound recycle workers have been killed on the job, and more have been injured. This is hard work that all of us benefit from, and the people who do the work deserve respect and fair treatment.

For decades, garbage truck drivers have worked together in a union to make sure they earn a decent living in exchange for their hard work. Recycle drivers have done the same. Now they are only asking for equal pay, since their work involves picking up the same kind of cans from the same customers in the same alleys on the same schedule with the same struggles and the same hazards. In fact, garbage drivers are supporting the picket lines of the recycle drivers because they too support the principle of equal pay for equal work.

But Waste Management executives have refused to negotiate fairly with refuse workers over this and other issues. Instead, they litter the landscape with misleading numbers and try to make workers who spend their days sharing territory with alley cats look like they're the ones who are the fat cats.

All these workers are asking for is to be given the respect they deserve by their multi-billion dollar employer and its multi-million-dollar CEO: fair negotiations, fair treatment, and equal pay for equal work. They deserve the support of the entire 99% — and these deceptive 1% tactics belong in the dustbin of history.

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