A strike among trash collectors in Youngstown has spread to more than 500 workers and four cities around the state. Ideastream’s Michelle Kanu reports.
The strike began March 27th with 23 Republic Services employees in Youngstown. The union that represents them—Local 377—filed an unfair labor practice claim against the company. The suit alleges Republic Services changed the union’s working conditions without bargaining over them.
Now, the picket lines have spread to Cleveland, Elyria, Canton and Columbus. Other unionized Republic Services drivers, trash haulers, and mechanics in those cities say they’re on strike in support of their Youngstown colleagues.
Brett Caldwell is a spokesman for Teamsters International, the group that represents Local 377.
Caldwell: “We’re having a lot of problems with Republic at different locations. However, the unfair labor practice complaints that we have in Local 377 in Youngstown are specific to that Local, they’re not necessarily the same issues that workers are having in other locations.”
Republic Services officials say they filed an unfair labor practice first, alleging the union hasn’t bargained in good faith. They say the real issue is Local 377’s reluctance to part ways with the cash strapped Central States Pension Fund, as Republic is asking employees to do around the country.
Brian Rayl is the company’s director of labor relations.
Rayl: “We’re seeking to exit the plan, to place our employees in a safer—either pension plans or in the company’s 401K plan in order to provide that they’ll have some sort of reasonable benefits when they get ready to retire.”
Rayl says Republic has brought in workers from out of state to fill in the trash pickup gaps during the strike. Negotiations are slated to resume on April 23rd.