It's always a sticky situation when workers in a labor union go on strike when they provide an essential public service, but in this case, it's probably more accurate to say it could be a smelly situation.
At 4am on Monday, March 27, workers from Carmel Marina Corporation, a subsidiary of Houston, Texas-based Waste Management, went on strike indefinitely, though Luis Argüello, a spokesperson for Laborers' Local 270, the union whose workers are striking, says they've submitted a letter to Waste Management indicating they will return to work April 10.
Today, March 27, they picketed at the landfill in Marina in a show of solidarity and shared grievance.
The union is currently amid negotiations with Waste Management regarding wages, and Argüello says the issue at hand is that he says some members have been threatened with being fired if they were to strike. In response, the drivers went on strike.
The affected areas are in unincorporated Monterey County, and include Prunedale, Castroville, Pajaro, East Garrison, Chualar, parts of Salinas, Monterey and Carmel, and Big Sur and Carmel Valley.
A spokesperson from Waste Management issued a statement March 27 that said the company offered a wage proposal Jan. 26 and got no response from the union, and that the union canceled subsequent meetings to negotiate. A mediation with the Federal Mediation & Conciliation Service is scheduled for Wednesday, March 29, and Argüello says that meeting will happen.
The Waste Management statement says, "The company is currently evaluating all its options to determine how quickly service can resume in whole, or in part, as safely as possible."
Argüello says the union's members worked through the pandemic, wildfires, floods, but that "this is the way the company repays them. It’s unconstitutional, it’s violating federal laws."
County spokesperson Maia Carroll issued a statement saying that the strike will not impact residential flood debris pickup in the Pajaro area—it's being handled by a separate team—but that it will impact commercial debris pickup, which Waste Management is responsible for. But, she adds, "We are informed that two drivers and two vehicles will be brought in Tuesday to empty and replace dumpsters."
Argüello would not speak to what the gap is in the the wages Waste Management is offering versus what the union is seeking. He says the reason for the strike is solely because some union members were threatened with being fired if they did strike.
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