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Replacement Drivers on Way in Seattle Waste Strike

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SEATTLE (AP) — Waste Management started bringing in replacement truck drivers Friday to pick up garbage in Renton and parts of the Seattle-Everett area where trash has been piling up since a Teamsters strike started Wednesday.

Hospitals, clinics, nursing homes and day cares can’t wait for pickups, company spokeswoman Robin Freedman said.

“As we ramp up, drivers will be going to those locations first,” she said.

Renton customers are a priority because their pickups are once every two weeks, and waiting for the next pickup would leave some garbage sitting around for a month.

No new talks are scheduled between the company and Teamsters Local 117. A session with a federal mediator planned for Saturday was called off when the union refused a company demand to return to work, Freedman said.

“We hope the union leadership will come to their senses,” she said. “We have an outstanding compensation package on the table. We’d like the union to let the drivers get back to work and let us go back to the table to seek a solution.”

Local 117 represents about 150 drivers of recycling and yard waste trucks. Garbage truck drivers represented by Teamsters Local 174 won’t cross the picket lines, so the walkout leaves all the recycling, yard waste and garbage bins sitting on sidewalks.

The company says the main issue in the strike is pay. Local 117 says its drivers earn about $9 an hour less than the garbage truck drivers in Local 174.

The previous contract with Local 117 expired at the end of May. Waste Management is offering a six-year deal it says would raise average salaries from $58,000 to $68,000 a year. If benefits are included, the offer is worth $98,000 a year to a driver at the end of the sixth year, Freedman said.

The strike is not about pay, Local 117 spokesman Paul Zilly said.

“This is about unfair labor practices,” he said. “They are not engaging in meaningful bargaining as they are required.”

The union has filed a complaint with the National Labor Relations Board.

The union said it felt the conditions that Waste Management set for returning to bargaining with the mediator Saturday were unreasonable. Zilly also doubted whether replacement drivers would be able to service customers.

For residents with garbage starting to smell in summer heat, Waste Management said to wait for the next scheduled pickup and the truck will take a double load.

The union urged unhappy customers to complain to politicians about missed collections.

Waste Management serves about 60 percent of Seattle. CleanScapes collects in the rest of the city and is not impacted by the strike.

If garbage collections are interrupted for more than a week, the city could fine the contractor $250,000 a day, Seattle Public Utilities said.

– Copyright 2012 The Associated Press.

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