Growing support for Southern California garbage collection workers as local government seeks to break month-long strike

The strike by 250 garbage collectors in San Diego and Chula Vista, Calif., against waste disposal monopoly Republic Services is now in its 29th day. This week, garbage collectors in western Washington joined the sympathy strike.

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

Despite claims by Republic Services management that its “blue teams” of scabs were bringing garbage collection back to normal in Chula Vista, since the strike began, trash cans and trash cans have not been picked up consistently, especially for businesses and apartment buildings.

On Tuesday, Jan. 11, Chula Vista City Manager Maria Kachadoorian declared a public health emergency caused by uncollected trash, citing pest infestations and contaminated streets and sewers. City employees and volunteers will be assigned garbage collection duties; supplementing the work of non-union scabs hired by Republic.

At last Tuesday’s meeting, city officials pressured Republic Services to end the strike. “Without the work of sanitation workers, your multi-million dollar business wouldn’t be worth a penny,” said Chula Vista Mayor Mary Casillas Salas. The Phoenix-based company, partly owned by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, reportedly earned $1.2 billion last year.

In contrast, many workers in the Republic are forced to work 60 hours a week to make ends meet. Republic refuses to even consider the flimsy wage demands made by Teamster negotiators of $0.50 an hour in the first year of the contract.

Under an agreement Chula Vista and Republic signed in 2014, granting the company a 10-year garbage collection franchise, the company is not liable for “uncontrollable” circumstances, such as natural disasters or “insurrections”, including strikes.

The agreement limits the city’s options but allows it to charge Republic for the cost of trash removal in an emergency.

Behind the wording of this contract hides the political ties that exist between the Chula Vista City Council and the services of the Republic. According to a report from San Diego La Prensa every day, each of the members of the municipal council received and accepted political contributions from the Services of the Republic. In 2015, Steve Miesen, director and shareholder of the Republic Services division, was concurrently appointed to the city council to serve for two years in the position left vacant when Mary Salas resigned from her seat, after being elected mayor. At the time, Miesen was also president of the Chula Vista Chamber of Commerce.

Miesen’s nomination created great controversy, and the city ended up spending over $150,000 to defend their decision. It was City Attorney Glen Googins who defended Miesen’s nomination.

At the city council meeting, Teamsters representatives urged the city council to force Republic Services to give in to workers’ wage demands. At the same time, Teamster organizer Salvador Abrica said the strikers received weekly strike pay of between $250 and $350, a pittance compared to what they normally earn and what he takes to live in San Diego and Chula Vista. This starvation pay plays into the company’s tactic of encouraging workers to cross the picket lines.

Silva Sylvia, the wife of a striker, launched a fundraising campaign on Wednesday to make up for the shortfall in strike pay. The GoFundMe campaign raised $9,000 on day one from more than 100 strike supporters with a goal of $20,000, with dozens of workers expressing their solidarity. Pickets in support of the strike appeared in Seattle, Washington and other towns in western Washington state.

In response to San Diego picketing, four days ago more than 300 Republic Services workers serving Seattle, Bellevue, Lynwood and Kent in Washington state went on a ‘work stoppage’ in solidarity with their comrades in San Diego.

Workers are ready to fight and understand the need for unity, as evidenced by the solidarity shown by Republican workers elsewhere and countless other examples by teachers, students and healthcare workers around the world. . What is needed now is a network of organized, independent rank-and-file committees where workers take direct control of their future and mobilize themselves in political struggle against a decrepit and murderous system that cares not for health. , hygiene and the well-being of mankind. Please contact the World Socialist Website join such committees.

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