Republic Services mobilizes strikebreakers against strikers

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On Thursday, striking sanitation workers employed by Republic Services voted 136 to 86 to reject a contract deal between the company and Teamsters Local 542, a so-called “improved” contract proposal, and to continue their strike in parts of San Diego and Chula Vista, California. The workers rejected a wage offer of just above the rate of inflation.

[Source: Facebook, Teamsters Local Union No. 542]

The problems for workers employed by the waste haulage monopoly Republic Services are “better wages and pensions, better working conditions, and better garbage trucks and safety equipment.” Due to their low wages, many workers are forced to work 12 hours a day, six days a week in conditions that compromise their health and safety, to support themselves and their families.

Teamsters Local 542 secretary-treasurer Jaime Vazquez said negotiations have settled the issue of better equipment and better safety equipment. All that remains is to pay the salaries.

Boldly, Republic Services accuses workers of being unrealistic, to “ignore San Diego labor market rates.” The company insists its wages, even before the strike began, were more than adequate given the working conditions in the San Diego area.

The strike is now in its fourth week. According to Republic Services management, Local 542 had met 15 times before the deal was reached, with five of those sessions being attended by a federal contract mediator.

During the vote, which took place in the parking lot of Local 542, several workers who voted in favor of the contract described the financial hardship they are currently experiencing as a result of the strike, at the same time declaring their determination to continue to fight with their comrades.

As in other struggles, the Teamsters are taking advantage of this financial pressure to force the approval of a contract that prevents “wage inflation” in response to the explosion in the cost of living.

The union also refuses to link the struggle of the San Diego strikers with other sanitation workers and more broadly. Contract negotiations with Republic are underway in at least eight locations: San Diego; San Francisco; Stockton, California; San José, California; Richmond, California; Seattle; Pittsburgh; and New Orleans. The union is isolating the strikes, making sure the struggles are staged, with the recent strike by Republic workers in Orange County that ended just a day before workers left San Diego. The strike is part of a larger movement of workers that has included autoworkers at Volvo, healthcare workers, John Deere and Kellogg’s workers and other food processing workers.

On January 1, the California minimum wage for employers with more than 26 workers rose from $ 1 to $ 15 an hour, a 7% increase, barely offsetting the Consumer Price Index of San Diego. [CPI] increase for the year (6.5 percent). By comparison, Republic Services’ salary offer two weeks ago, of $ 1 for starting salary (from $ 15 to $ 16), barely matches the CPI increase in what is already there. one of the most expensive areas for working class households in the United States.

Adding insult to injury, on the eve of the strike vote, the members of the company’s board of directors received their annual share grant for 2022 of $ 230,000. The waste management giant took in $ 10 billion last year, with more than $ 2 billion in profits. All of these profits are based on an overexploited workforce that is made possible by the AFL-CIO and Teamster unions, doomed to isolate workers’ struggles, even in the same industries.

This relationship now allows Republic to build up a force of contract strikebreakers (bluecrewjobs.com). The union allows the “Blue Crew” to cross the picket lines with impunity. Bluecrewjobs the services cost the company nearly twice the starting salary of current garbage truck drivers, including room and board costs for those coming from out of town and other states. At the same time, the company is urging the striking drivers to cross the picket line.

After the vote, the Republic leadership announced that its scab team was already implementing its regular garbage collection program in Chula Vista (population 275,000) and making progress in other parts of San Diego.

“Our Blue Crew relief drivers stay on the job and continue to make progress in serving our customers,” the company said.

The San Diego strike is in danger of defeat. The lesson of this struggle and of the past struggles against the Services of the Republic is that what is needed is the construction of grassroots committees independent of the pro-business unions to lead a real fight. This includes monitoring at the base of contract negotiations, developing demands based on the real needs of workers and a strategy to link workers’ struggles in different places and industries. Republic Services employees interested in learning more should contact the World socialist website.

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