Memphis Workers On Unfair Labor Practice Strike Extend Picket Lines For First Time
SAN JOSE, Calif., April 18, 2013 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Striking sanitation workers from Republic Service's [NYSE: RSG] hauling yards in Memphis and Millington, Tennessee extended picket lines to California early this morning. The striking workers, members of Teamsters Local 984 in Memphis, raised picket lines at Republic's hauling yard in Fremont, its hauling yard and recycling facility in San Jose, and its West County Resource Recovery recycling facility in Richmond.
The Republic Services workers at these locations - members of Teamster Local Unions 350, 70 and 315, respectively - are refusing to cross the picket lines. These workers have the legal right to refuse to cross picket lines in support of striking workers at other Republic locations.
The Memphis-area workers began their unfair labor practice strike on April 16. They are exercising their legal right to strike in protest of Republic's violations of federal labor laws that exist to protect workers' rights. Republic broke federal law when it suddenly started cutting the paychecks of commercial and recycling drivers. Some workers began losing up to $200 per week in their paychecks when the company made this unilateral change. The company also broke federal law when it began spying on its workers and their union representatives.
Workers at two other Republic facilities in the United States are also on unfair labor practice strikes. Members of Teamsters Local 377 in Youngstown, Ohio went on strike on March 27, and members of Teamsters Local 728 in McDonough, Georgia went on strike on April 15.
Over the past few weeks, hundreds of Teamster members have honored picket lines and refused to work at Republic locations in about 20 cities in Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, California and Washington State, in support of striking Republic workers.
"I'm on strike because this giant waste corporation thinks it can break the law and starve us into submission. Republic has been cheating us out of pay for the work that we do, and we have had enough," said Johnell Chambers, a residential helper from Memphis who picketed in San Jose today. "We support the workers who are on strike in Ohio and in Georgia, and now there are fellow sanitation workers in Memphis and California and across the country who are supporting us."
"I'll be out here as long as it takes," Chambers added.
Over the past year, Republic/Allied Waste has forced multiple lockouts and strikes, disrupting trash collection for hundreds of thousands of people across the United States and putting communities at risk. Republic earned profits of more than $572 million in 2012. The company's primary shareholder is Microsoft chairman Bill Gates, the second wealthiest person in the world.
In numerous locations, Republic is taking up to $140 per month out of workers' paychecks for health insurance "tobacco" or "spouse" surcharges, even if they don't smoke or their spouses have no other insurance option. When notified of the errors that can total up to $1,700 per person per year, Republic refuses to return the money to them. Other workers have seen their paychecks shrink now that Republic's lawyers are exploiting loopholes in the law to pay overtime at rates as low as $6 or $7 per hour.
Ken Hall, Teamsters General Secretary-Treasurer, said, "Sanitation work is the fourth most dangerous job in the country. These workers are two times more likely to be killed on the job than police officers, and seven times more likely to be killed on the job than firefighters. But Republic is locking workers out of their jobs without pay, cheating them in their paychecks and demanding contract concessions even though the company makes hundreds of millions in profits each year."
In Evansville, Ind., Republic locked its workers out of their jobs for six weeks without pay, solely over differences of opinion during contract negotiations. The company intentionally left the Evansville community without reliable trash service in an attempt to starve its workers and their families into submission. In Mobile, Ala., Republic agreed to a new contract, then went back on its word when it wanted to unilaterally impose changes to the health care plan that would have made it more expensive for workers. In Memphis, Tenn., Republic has withheld checks from workers in an attempt to bully and intimidate them.
"Republic's bullying and harassment of its workers must stop," said Robert Morales, Director of the Teamsters Solid Waste, Recycling and Related Industries Division. "And the abuse is not just limited to workers. Communities should also be aware of what Republic is doing to put their residents' health at risk. Republic's record of endangering the public is getting worse – just ask Missouri and Ohio."
In Bridgeton, Mo., an ongoing fire at Republic's landfill has caused an explosion and months of noxious fumes. The fire is next to buried radioactive nuclear wastes. The Missouri Attorney General is suing Republic in order to force it to correct its environmental violations. The lawsuit also seeks to order Republic to pay for ongoing environmental testing for compounds such as dioxins, hydrogen cyanide and sulfur dioxide.
In Youngstown, a planned natural gas fracking project on the site of Republic's landfill has residents concerned about pollution that will be generated from the industrial process of oil and gas production. In Stark County, Ohio, odors and other environmental violations stemming from nine years of underground fires at Republic's Countywide landfill led to a $10 million fine from the EPA and an 800-plaintiff lawsuit against Republic that was just settled in March 2013.
Republic/Allied Waste's total revenues were more than $8.1 billion in 2012. Bill Gates is the primary shareholder of Republic stock. Gates owns approximately $2.4 billion worth of stock, or 25 percent of the total worth of the company. Michael Larsen, Gates' investment manager, sits on Republic's board of directors.