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Waste workers at Republic Services rally as potential strike approaches

By Alex Carson

Workers at Republic Services rally for a decent contract.

Atlanta GA – On July 21, waste workers at Republic Services, who are represented by Teamsters Local 728 in Atlanta, rallied in support of a potential strike. The rally was held less than two weeks after 95% of waste workers in Local 728 voted to authorize a strike if the company refuses to offer a decent contract before July 31.

The action started with a march of about 60 people to the front gate of Republic Services, where management was watching from their offices. Union members and supporters from the community chanted “Who are we? Teamsters!” and “Hey hey! Ho ho! Corporate greed has got to go!” The march was followed by a rally with speeches from union leaders.

Jeff Roland, a Teamster and union steward who has worked at Republic Services for 37 years, emphasized the need for real gains to be made in the new contract. “We will not go backwards at all. They want to continue paying us like they were paying us in the 80s. I’ve been here since ’87. It’s 2023 baby! We need to get paid like it’s 2023!”

Chuck Stiles, the director of Teamsters Solid Waste and Recycling Division, discussed how this is a life and death fight for the workers at Republic Services. Stiles pointed out that waste workers suffer some of the highest rates of injury and death of any job, a fact that Republic Services is indifferent to in the pursuit of profits. Stiles said “This corporation here, we fight them all over the country. They are vicious, they are dirty. But I’m looking at all the political friends here and our community allies, and we’re gonna take them down. Nobody is going backwards.”

Waste workers provide an essential service to society and are among those who have worked under dangerous conditions throughout the pandemic. The same can be said for Teamsters at UPS, who will also be on strike if they do not receive a strong contract by July 31. These coinciding strikes in essential services threaten to have significant impacts on daily life and the economy in Atlanta as workers fight for improvements in their next contracts at the two companies.

This will not be the first time workers at Republic Services have gone on strike citing mistreatment by the company as making their fight necessary. In 2013 and 2018, Republic workers at hauling yards in the Georgia cities of McDonough and Cumming went on strike due to violations of federal labor laws. The 2018 strike was instigated by Republic Services taking work away from full-time mechanics and outsourcing it to subcontractors, a practice some Teamsters believe was a tactic used to get workers to accept an unaffordable health insurance contract. In 2017 Republic Services’ total revenue was more than $10 billion. For 2023 Republic expects revenue to be in the range of $14.65 billion to $14.8 billion.

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