The Kshama Sawant campaign for Washington State House stands in complete solidarity with the recycling workers of the private sanitation firm, Waste Management. The 153 recycle and yard waste drivers unanimously voted to authorize a strike after Waste Management committed a series of labor law violations, including coercing and direct dealing with its employees, threatening to retaliate against workers, and unilaterally changing working conditions, according to Teamsters Local 117.
In a tremendous show of solidarity and effective trade unionism, the garbage-truck drivers in Teamsters Local 174 who signed a contract with Waste Management a few months ago, have been honoring the picket lines of the recycle and yard waste drivers in Teamsters Local 117.
The city of Seattle, and more broadly the Northwest, takes pride in leading the nation in recycling and composting. However, the dark underbelly of recycling and related services is the relentless privatization of the industry and the systematic violation of labor rights.
Sanitation work, which includes garbage and recycling pickup and deposit, ranks as the fifth most dangerous job in the country. Drivers deal with rats, maggots, used syringes, chemicals, and rotting meat on a daily basis. Since 2005, four Puget Sound recycle workers have been killed on the job.
This is not the first time this is happening. Sanitation workers have been engaged in an ongoing struggle against Waste Management. In 2007, for example, the corporation engaged in similar anti-labor tactics before locking out 500 striking workers in Oakland for almost a month. The company is notorious for frequent violations of labor and health and safety laws, and for its wanton disregard for worker safety.
The Sawant campaign also points out, however, that Waste Management is not an isolated corporation that exploits workers. It is a part of a long process of privatizing public services and undermining worker rights. Privatization of public services gives corporations free reign to pocket huge profits, while workers and ordinary people are faced with lower wages and a gutting of unionized jobs, dangerous working conditions, higher prices, and worse service.
We urge the community, the labor movement, Occupy, and civil rights organizations to mobilize actively in support of the striking workers. “Workers and ordinary people need to stand by the Teamsters and put pressure on Waste Management to end the exploitation of sanitation workers. We also must demand an end to the privatization of public services. Seattle government should not be contracting out to anti-union companies like Waste Management and instead should be organizing sanitation as part of a democratically run public utility,” Sawant said.
The Kshama Sawant campaign also recently expressed its solidarity with Davis Wire workers, also members of Teamsters 117, who are striking against sweatshop conditions at their factory in Kent. Sawant said, “This is ultimately the way capitalism works. When you have a system that is geared for the profit of the few as opposed to fulfilling the needs of the people, workers’ wages and workplace safety are placed on the chopping block. We need to end corporate rule and make the state of Washington work for its people, not for big business and the richest 1%.”
HOW YOU CAN HELP:
- Visit www.SeattleTrashWatch.org and sign up.
- Text TRASH to 206-535-1859 for updates and information.
- Call 1-800-230-7418 to report trash, yard waste, or recycle service disruptions.
|Kshama Sawant is running as a Socialist Alternative candidate for the Washington State House, 43rd District (Position 1), to give working people an alternative to the two big business parties. The Stranger is ALSO recommending writing in Kshama Sawant in for 43rd District, Position 2. Exact spelling required.|
For more information or to get involved in the Sawant campaign:
Paid for by Vote Sawant / P.O. Box 85862, Seattle, WA 98145. Candidate party preference: Socialist Altern.