Trash can issue: Workers return to picket lines after Republic Services’ latest offer was rejected

SAN DIEGO – A strike by sanitation workers in its third week is not in sight after members of Teamsters Local 542 rejected the latest offer from waste management company Republic Services on Thursday.

Ricardo Gonzalez, a striking Republic Services employee, says unionized workers are finally fighting for a better way of life with the recent garbage strike. (FOX 5 photo)

More than 250 unionized workers quit their jobs last month to strike for higher wages, better benefits and better safety conditions. But as negotiations with the Republic have yet to bear fruit, workers have returned to picket lines this week as residents and some elected officials worry about the build-up of trash in communities across San Diego County. .

“We are not going to settle for less,” said trade unionist Ricardo Gonzalez. “We have to get what we want.”

Gonzalez, who is on strike with his colleagues, said the effort goes beyond his job. Husband and father, including a 2 month old baby, he said he is ultimately fighting for a better way of life.

“It’s overwhelming because I just had a newborn baby,” he said. “She’s 2 months old… but it’s a sacrifice – not just for me – but it’s a sacrifice for the people who want to be here. It’s not just for us now; it is for the future.

In a statement Thursday to FOX 5, Republic Services said it was “disappointed” that the union rejected its latest offer of a new employment contract to end the strike.

“The Republic and the union have met for negotiations 15 times, five of which were with a federal mediator,” the company statement said. “The company’s offering included a very competitive salary and total compensation, and had the support and encouragement of partners and city leaders. Until further notice, the Republic’s emergency operations plan will continue to be implemented.

One of those measures includes the use of so-called Blue Crew emergency drivers – essentially replacement workers – “to advance service to our customers,” according to the company. Gonzalez said the rescue team does not compare favorably to him and other striking employees.

“They can’t do what we do,” he said, “so it shows just because they know how to drive doesn’t mean they can do what we do.”

Republic Services also thanked its municipal partners and customers for their patience in the midst of the ongoing strike. But it’s also clear that patience is running out as the strike continues.

Chula Vista City Manager Maria Kachadooria addressed the strike in a statement Wednesday, acknowledging that it had taken “a heavy toll on our residents”. An update on the strike is expected to be on the agenda for the Chula Vista city council meeting next week to discuss proposed measures if the strike continues.

“Please know that city leaders are very involved in this matter, including the city attorney’s office,” Kachadooria said. “We are currently working directly with Republic Services to ensure that at a minimum, trash is picked up and properly disposed of while they resolve their business issues. I have asked our Parks and Public Works teams to take care of all the waste that is placed in the public right-of-way, in particular near our storm sewers.

“We are also working to re-establish recycling and green waste disposal services, with alternatives traced if a proper resumption of service does not take place this week. We do not have the staff or the equipment to pick up the containers and take over the services provided by Republic Services. “

Last week, San Diego Mayor Todd Gloria said he was in talks with the company and its employees, noting that the city was reviewing its franchise agreement with Republic “to determine enforcement options to remedy non-compliance with its conditions “.

In the meantime, Gloria urges garbage customers to contact the company directly to request garbage pickup. This can be done by phone at 619-421-9400 or by email at [email protected]

Other people who spoke out against the strike included the vice chairman of the San Diego County Supervisory Board Nora Vargas and now a former member of the California Assembly Lorena González.

Despite the failure of negotiations, employees who spoke to FOX 5 on Thursday said they just wanted to get back to work.

“We hope that hard hearts will become soft and that we can return to work and serve our community,” said striker Michael Bernardo.

Gonzalez even apologized to the community for the impact the extended strike had on her.

“Just naked with us and we’ll come back to it eventually,” he said.

FOX 5’s Dillon Davis contributed to this story.