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How garbage strike by Waste Management affects Federal Way

UPDATE

The Associated Press reports that garbage workers represented by Teamsters Union Local 174 have gone on strike against Waste Management, with pickets beginning April 21 at Waste Management facilities.

Roughly 81 percent — 16,000 of 19,760 — single-family households in Federal Way are serviced by Waste Management, said Rob Van Orsow, solid waste and recycling coordinator. Nearly 100 percent of the city's multi-family residences are serviced by the agency, he said.

The City of Federal Way advises putting trash, recycling and yard waste curbside on its scheduled collection day. If the items are not collected by the end of the day, pull them off the curbside and plan to double up on the next collection day. Garbage is collected weekly. Recycling and yard waste are collected once every two weeks. No additional charges will apply.

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Original April 5 report below

The possibility of a garbage haulers' strike in King and Snohomish Counties still lingers.

Last week, it looked like approximately 350 Waste Management employees would strike. The contract between the company and Teamsters 174, which represents Waste Management Northwest garbage haulers, expired midnight March 31. On April 1, Waste Management presented its latest contract.

"Last week we gave the union our 'last, best and final offer,'" Waste Management Washington spokeswoman Katie Salinas said.

As of press time Monday, the two sides remained at odds over workers' compensation and health benefits. Garbage haulers were working, but without a contract.

Precarious situation

Ongoing negotiations have left customers wondering whether their garbage collection will be interrupted and how the negotiations could affect them. Teamsters 174 members voted last week to approve a strike, if necessary. On the flip side, Waste Management could, at any point, decide to lock out the garbage haulers.

"We've always said we're not striking at this time," Teamsters 174 spokesman Michael Gonzales said. "We want to serve the communities of King and Snohomish counties."

Waste Management also aims to avoid service interruptions. Out-of-state employees are ready to replace those who may strike, Salinas said. The company also accepted 1,600 applications for temporary employees and, on Saturday, interviewed and administered driving tests for 100 applicants. The replacements have not officially been hired.

"It's our responsibility to continue to provide those services regardless of whether this contract is signed," Salinas said.

City staff stands by

In the event of a strike, the City of Federal Way advises putting trash, recycling and yard waste curbside on its scheduled collection day. If the items are not collected by the end of the day, pull them off the curbside and plan to double up on the next collection day. Garbage is collected weekly. Recycling and yard waste are collected once every two weeks. No additional charges will apply.

Roughly 81 percent — 16,000 of 19,760 — single-family households in Federal Way are serviced by Waste Management, said Rob Van Orsow, solid waste and recycling coordinator. Nearly 100 percent of the city's multi-family residences are serviced by the agency, he said.

"As long as negotiations are happening, service should be provided as normal," Van Orsow said. "That's where we're at right now."

Intense negotiations

Negotiations between Waste Management and the union are centered on wages and health benefits. Waste Management's "best, last, final offer" to the garbage haulers presents a $1 wage increase for each driver in the first year and a 45-cent to 50-cent increase every year thereafter for the extension of the contract, expected to be negotiated at four or five years, Salinas said.

The contract reflects an increase in health care premiums paid by both Waste Management and its employees. Waste Management contributes up to $1,108 per month per employee for health coverage, Salinas said. That figure would increase by roughly $88 (8 percent) by the end of the contract, she said. However, employees' monthly premiums would also increase from $30 to $50, Salinas said.

Waste Management's contribution to employees' pensions would also increase under the latest proposed contract, she said. By the end of the contract, each employee will see $15,101 (up from $14,000) per year to his or her pension, Salinas said. The contribution is not dependent on employees paying into the plan, she said.

In all, Waste Management is proposing a $110,000 wage and benefits package, Salinas said. It's generous, considering the economic times, she said.

The presented package is not realistic, Teamsters 174 spokesman Michael Gonzales said. Wages are based on employees working six hours per week overtime, at time-and-a-half pay, Gonzales said. Bargaining traditionally occurs on a 35- or 40-hour work week, he said.

"You don't bargain based on overtime the company controls," Gonzales said.

Salinas confirmed wages are based on a 46-hour work week. Overtime pay is not guaranteed, she said.

Another area of contention for Teamsters is the 12 significant modifications to earlier proposals that were included in Waste Management's latest proposal, Gonzales said. The two sides met Friday to bargain the new additions. Waste Management had offered employees a $1,000 each bonus if the contract was approved by Saturday.

As of press time Monday, negotiations were expected to continue Tuesday, April 6.

"We're hoping they will sit down with us and bargain with us in good faith," Gonzales said.

Follow negotiations

• Visit Waste Management's Web site at wmnorthwest.com to keep current on ongoing negotiations.

• Visit the City of Federal Way's Web site at www.cityoffederalway.com to read tips and get contact information about garbage service delays or interruptions.

Check it out

The City of Federal Way renegotiated its service contract with Waste Management on Dec. 1. The seven-year contract reflected rate increases, ranging from $1.01 to $4.87 for single-family residents and $9.38 to $92.01 for commercial customers. The increases went into effect last month. Until the current contract expires, rates will not increase regardless of labor negotiations.

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