WASHINGTON, Oct. 16, 2020 /PRNewswire/ -- The Teamsters joined with environmental activists and labor organizers last night for an "Organizing for Waste Justice Gathering" to advocate zero waste practices in the sanitation industry. Panelists at the online event, hosted by the Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives (GAIA), emphasized the social, environmental and labor impact on workers and residents who live and work near landfills and incinerators operated by private waste companies.
John Bouchard, Secretary-Treasurer of Teamsters Local 350, served as a panelist and spoke about the union's role in reaching a goal of zero emissions and how waste workers are ushering in a fundamental change toward environmental justice and sustainability.
"Union members are becoming conscious of how environmental issues affect labor, and as labor leaders we have a moral and ethical obligation to address environmental issues," said Bouchard, who also serves on the California Commission on Recycling Markets and Curbside Recycling. "Teamsters who work in the waste industry are at the intersections of waste management and community empowerment, our members know the impact current waste management practices are having on people in different communities, especially low-income communities, and they understand that it is all connected and tied together."
Experts believe that clean energy and the jobs that come with it—jobs that can't be outsourced and that offer good pay and benefits—are essential to America's economic recovery, and to our ability to compete in the 21st century.
"In order to build a new world from the ashes of our broken system, we must dismantle the current paradigm of extraction, production, consumption and disposal, and shift to a regenerative, equitable economy. Zero waste solutions are a key component of this transformation," said Aditi Varshenya, U.S. Zero Waste Communities Coordinator at GAIA.
The rise of mega-landfills coincides with the concentration of control of the nation's solid waste industry in the hands of a few large companies. There are more than 1,800 operational landfills in the U.S. today. Waste Management, Inc. and Republic Services, Inc., the two largest employers of Teamster members in the private waste industry, control over 60 percent of total U.S. landfill capacity.
"Waste companies have a legal, moral and financial responsibility to keep workers and communities safe from the harmful pollution caused by incinerated waste and toxic landfills. The current waste management practices in the U.S.—and those who profit from it—is responsible for this inaction. Our goal is zero emissions throughout the industry," said Chuck Stiles, Director of the Teamsters Solid Waste and Recycling Division. "I applaud Brother Bouchard and other Teamster leaders around the country for their commitment to promote sustainability while retaining and creating jobs and reducing waste pollution."
GAIA is a worldwide alliance of more than 800 grassroots groups, non-governmental organizations, and individuals in over 90 countries whose ultimate vision is a just, toxic-free world without incineration.
Founded in 1903, the International Brotherhood of Teamsters represents 1.4 million hardworking men and women throughout the United States, Canada and Puerto Rico. Visit www.teamster.org for more information. Follow us on Twitter @Teamsters and "like" us on Facebook at www.facebook.com/teamsters.
Kara Deniz, (202) 497-6610
SOURCE International Brotherhood of Teamsters