Who Will Pick Up Seattle's Garbage If the Collectors Go On Strike?

That's not fresh cut roses you're smelling.
Baseball. Sunshine. The smell from an overflowing garbage can lilting on the breeze as its contents sit rotting in the sun.

Obviously, no one would include the latter on a list of things they're looking forward to this spring. But if the garbage collectors of Waste Management move forward with their threatened strike, it could prove a smelly few months.

Truck drivers from Texas-based garbage collection giant Waste Management tell King 5 that contract negotiations between them and the company brass have broken down over the holy trinity of labor issues: pay, safety concerns, health care.

Keeping with industry nomenclature, 558 routes in King and Snohomish counties will be affected if the 550 Waste Management employees represented by Teamsters Locals 174 and 117 go on strike. According to Waste Management spokesperson Jackie Lang, that's breaks down to around 1 million households whose dumpsters will start overflowing come March 31--the expiration date for the current contract.

Waste Management currently holds a $35 million contract from the city of Seattle to pick up solid waste in about half the city. Meaning, if you live west of Interstate 5 (including West Seattle) and south of downtown starting at Pioneer Square, Waste Management is probably the company that empties your garbage bin.

Should the drivers make good on their threat (and this isn't the first time that they've made one ), Waste Management plans on flying in the "best drivers in the company" to pick up the slack, says Lang. Whatever the case, the company's contract with the city makes them liable for trash pickup.

Cleanscapes, the company that services the other half of the city is for the most part staying out of the fray. Spokesman John Taylor says the company won't comment on the negotiations between Waste Management and its employees. But if a strike does occur, Cleanscapes's own operations might be disrupted due to the likelihood of picketing at waste transfer stations that both they and Waste Management deliver to, he says.

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