Sanitation workers agree to new contract with Republic Services, ending strike
Speaker 1: (00:00)
Trash collection services will finally resume today. Following a month long strike that saw mountains of trash piling up in Schula Vista in parts of San Diego, an agreement between Republic services, waste haulers and their workers was reached yesterday. Only days after mayor Todd, Gloria threatened legal action against the company. Joining me with an over view on the strike is San Diego union Tribune reporter Tammy Marga, Tammy. Welcome.
Speaker 2: (00:26)
Thank you so much. I really appreciate for having me today,
Speaker 1: (00:28)
What do we know about the deal that was reached between Republic services and its workers?
Speaker 2: (00:34)
Yeah, so it's been really a tough month of, you know, work stoppage on Monday, uh, deal was reached the specifics aren't available, but it seems that Republic services included what they said, hikes in wages and benefits and an unspecified new and significant financial incentives, uh, for workers to return. Uh, and some workers have said that that includes like a $1,000 bonus. So that's what we know so far. And the union workers said that it wasn't exactly what they have wanted, what they said they deserved, but enough for them to return to work because they said they've understand the effects this has had on, on the communities
Speaker 1: (01:09)
And for people who don't live in the areas affected by the Republic services work stoppage. Can you give us an idea of how much trash has been piling up?
Speaker 2: (01:16)
Yes. I mean, you can imagine over the course of a whole month, and really this started just before the holidays, you have cardboard boxes, gift wrapping, you name it. If I can just give you kind of a number to quantify this just last week, the city of Chula Vista collected 10,000 pounds of trash. So think about that over the whole month. Uh, we've seen piles and piles of overflow in a multiple areas of the county and
Speaker 1: (01:40)
Besides the city of Chula Vista, what other areas have been affected by the Republic strike
Speaker 2: (01:46)
In ULA Vista alone. You know, we have about 52, 50 4,000 customers, but there are also tens of thousands of customers in the city of San Diego, as well as unincorporated areas in the
Speaker 1: (01:57)
County. And what have residents been doing to cope?
Speaker 2: (02:00)
Well, really, they haven't had many options. The waste haulers said they can take their trash to landfills, but many customers have said they don't have the means. Whether it's, you know, vehicle time, money to haul their own trash. They've really just been doing what they can. And others have said, you know, it's not my job I've been paying throughout this whole month of the stoppage really trash has just been piling, but their options have been bar. What's
Speaker 1: (02:24)
Been the consequence of having this trash pile up.
Speaker 2: (02:27)
Yeah. So, you know, we, we even saw footage. Uh, some customers were saying that they have rats in their alleys and many businesses that we spoke to too. They have had piles of trash in their hallways, in their alleys, and they've even taken the trash inside their own homes. They themselves have been affected by. So it's really been a health hazard and we saw that or the city of ULA Vista declared a public health emergency due to these effects.
Speaker 1: (02:52)
And now I have to ask, so what exactly, uh, happens when a public health emergency is called,
Speaker 2: (02:57)
It really, uh, shows to the community that the city is trying to take action here and they're really going to do what they can to set out workers. We saw that the city of Trioli Vista use their own public workers, and they even, uh, reached out to nonprofits to go out into the streets themselves and help with the overflow. So really is kind of this effort to between, you know, whoever they can get hands on to, to get to the streets and start doing the work themselves.
Speaker 1: (03:21)
So why were employees on strike in the first place? What were they asking for? And, and how did Republic respond?
Speaker 2: (03:27)
Workers have really been, uh, asking for a better pay and benefits? You know, they, they said that living in, in San Diego county has been really expensive and really what they've been looking for, or just for that increase. And we can see that they were asking for an agreement similar to that, or what workers were able to reach in orange county, which was a $2 increase pay. And I believe it was a dollar increase per hour for four more years. So that's really what they've been asking for. And Republic, uh, has said that their offer is, is reasonable for the market here in San Diego county. So it's really been this back and forth. Um, I mean, all workers have also said that, you know, their job is among the most dangerous, um, and they've really been looking for better conditions, you know, improving even their conditions during the pandemic and also the equipment that they use. How did
Speaker 1: (04:17)
The city deal with trash collection during the strike?
Speaker 2: (04:20)
Yeah. So cities really have been pushing for Republic services to see, you know, if there is work stoppage, what else can you do? So Republic has been sending out of area workers to pick up trash and they've really only been prioritizing trash. So the black bins, right? And for example, in Chula Vista Republic services is the only waste haul in that area. Uh, whereas in the city of San Diego, there are multiple service providers. So it's really been two different scenarios, but really cities have been kind of pushing on their end to get as many workers as possible during this time, you know, as we saw in Chula Vista, they even, uh, reached out to volunteers to kind of do what they, what Republic hasn't been able to do during month. So what kind
Speaker 1: (05:02)
Of legal action was mayor Todd, Gloria threatening against the company? If a deal wasn't reached,
Speaker 2: (05:07)
You know, we saw a statement from him, uh, last week that he threatened to issue fines and even terminate the agreement. And he gave Republic services, a deadline of yesterday on Monday to meet its obligations of, of his franchise agreement. And, you know, it's sounds like the agreement was reached and he did actually applaud that settlement, but he said, you know, you really looks forward to Republic's resumption of a regular trash, uh, pickup. And also the mayor of Chula Vista. She said the same, this
Speaker 1: (05:35)
Isn't the first time Republic services has been in hot water with San Diego. Uh, they recently got fined for failing to meet diversion rates. What's that
Speaker 2: (05:41)
About? Yeah. So November the city of San Diego, uh, was looking into its diversion rates and it said that, you know, it, it was failing to meet those rates and these, uh, diversion rates, they calculate the amount of waste that's not sent to landfill. So the minimum in 2020 was 50%, but Republic services reported to the city of San Diego reaching about 25.9% of nearly 300,000 tons of waste. So the city find the boys haul one point 42 million and it looks like Republic did pay that fine. And last
Speaker 1: (06:13)
Week, the city of Chula Vista sent out workers to pick got some of the trash, uh, which areas of the city did they begin with.
Speaker 2: (06:20)
Yeah. So the city manager, Maria catch Dorian had mentioned that areas where apartment complexes, you know, multifamily units have seen the biggest effect in terms of overflow. So these are the areas where the city has gone off as they prioritize these. As in the city manager, again said that these are areas lowest income, so that that's been their priority. And obviously not forgetting single family homes, but the focus has been so far these apartment buildings and multi-family complexes. All
Speaker 1: (06:49)
Right. I've been speaking with San Diego union Tribune, reporter Tammy Murga, Tammy. Thank you so much. Thank
Speaker 2: (06:55)
You for having me.
The strike started on Dec. 17 and disrupted trash services for Chula Vista and portions of the city of San Diego.
The month-long strike ended Monday as sanitation workers in Chula Vista and parts of San Diego reached an agreement with national waste hauling company Republic Services.
Teamsters Local 542, representing more than 250 sanitation workers, voted yes on a contract and the company agreed to award a $1,000 bonus for trash workers to return to work starting Tuesday.
On Sunday, Republic Services announced its “last, best and final offer” to the striking trash haulers. Details of the offer were not released but the company said it “includes significant increases in wages and benefits in addition to other enhancements to our employees’ total compensation packages.”
The strike ended on the deadline imposed by San Diego Mayor Todd Gloria, who called on Friday for Republic Services to come to an agreement with the union.
“I look forward to Republic’s resumption of regular trash and recycle pick-up for its routes within the City of San Diego tomorrow (Tuesday),” Gloria said.
“Our workers are going back to work as it should be,” Teamster organizer Sal Abrica said.
With trash accumulating, causing odor and attracting vermin, the city of Chula Vista declared a public health emergency on Saturday.
“We are happy that Republic Services and their employees have come to an agreement. However, we are still going to pressure Republic to provide our residents, schools, churches, businesses, HOAs and apartment complexes full monthly rebates,” Chula Vista City Councilmember Jill Galves said in a statement to KPBS. “They need to do their job, and immediately pick up the trash that has accumulated for the past 30 days.”
Following Chula Vista’s Local Emergency Declaration, city workers picked up more than 100,000 pounds of trash, according to a city statement. City crews have been authorized to continue clean-up efforts throughout the week.
“I am glad that the strike has been settled and understand the difficult position of sanitation workers as they fought for dignity and respect,” Chula Vista Mayor Mary Casillas Salas said in a statement. “I am also so proud of our city crews for stepping up and pivoting from their normal duties to make sure our city gets cleaned up. Thank you to all our residents for their patience through this difficult and unprecedented situation.”
Starting Tuesday, Chula Vista residents will soon be able to report trash accumulation via a new phone line and email. The number and email address will be announced then.
Republic Services is the second-largest trash collection, disposal and landfill corporation in America, with facilities in over 40 states.