By DON McINTOSH
Six heavy equipment mechanics at Coffin Butte landfill in Corvallis walked off the job Sept. 11 after bargaining much of this year without reaching agreement on a first contract.
The workers are employed by Valley Landfills Inc., a subsidiary of the giant publicly traded waste company Republic Services. They voted 5-0 Dec. 21 to join Operating Engineers Local 701.
Local 701 business manager Jim Anderson says the company isn’t taking negotiations seriously.
“They’re slow walking it,” Anderson said.
Local 701 attorney Jacob Stallings says the company’s labor negotiator, Shawn Jones, has canceled negotiations at the last minute at least a third of the time, even though he takes part in them virtually over Zoom from the company’s Arizona headquarters.
And in bargaining, the company hasn’t agreed to even common sense union proposals, like enrolling members in union-sponsored health benefits, which could save the company about $40,000 a year in premiums while enabling richer benefits for workers.
In March, the company gave annual raises to everyone else at the otherwise non-union landfill, but not the union workers. Local 701 filed charges saying that and other misconduct violated federal labor law. The charges are being investigated by the National Labor Relations Board.
After Jones cancelled another meeting last week, the union workers decided to become union strikers. They’re engaging in “ambulatory picketing,” in which strikers follow a picket line crosser when he enters and leaves the landfill site.
“This isn’t some bullshit strike where people are out there wandering around,” Anderson said. “These guys are hammering it.”
The two sides were scheduled to meet again for bargaining Sept. 14, after this issue went to press.