UPDATE: Atlanta sanitation workers end strike with hopes of new contract

After hours of protest, more than 100 Atlanta sanitation workers ended their strike Friday afternoon with hopes of a new contract.

Earlier that day, the workers, part of Teamsters Local Union 728, wore neon yellow reflective jackets and held signs chanting outside the offices of Republic Services Atlanta, their employer.

But there seems to be some disagreement as to how the strike ended.

Republic said in a press release that it “accepted an immediate and unconditional offer by Teamsters 728 to return to work.” Ben Speight, strike organizer, said there was no such offer nor was there even a conversation.

“We had intended all along to have a one-day action. We didn’t want to telegraph that to the company,” Speight said, adding that strikers “made a tactical decision that we hit them sufficiently with an economic penalty for breaking the law.”

Contract negotiations are what caused the employee action Friday.

“The company has halted bargaining and negotiating with these workers,” said Speight. “They refuse to reduce employees’ cost of health insurance. Workers don’t get paid for all the time they work.”

He didn’t rule out another strike.

In a press release, Republic spokesperson Russ Knocke, explained that the company has always negotiated with its employees.

“We always bargain in good faith and conduct ourselves in a lawful and respectful manner,” said Knock. “We, and our employees, should expect the same from the Teamsters.”

MORE: Teamsters union leaders approve labor deals with UPS

This isn’t the first time area workers have gone on strike against Republic. In 2013, workers at the McDonough site went on strike after Republic refused to pay drivers, according to Speight.

A more notable sanitation strike occurred 50 years ago when Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. led Memphis sanitation workers in a walkout.

“Today, we are on strike and are walking in the footsteps of those brave Memphis workers,” Marcus Redding, a mechanic at Republic Services in Atlanta, said in a press release early Friday.

Workers in the striking unit service Piedmont Hospital, Emory University, Emory Healthcare, Atlanta Public Schools, Hartsfield-Jackson Airport and some residential communities.

However, in a statement to APS, Republic had said the strike would not affect services to the schools.

“It only briefly affected one of Republic’s locations in the metro area, the Atlanta South business unit. Its impact on service and operations was minimal,” said Knocke.

The union voted Sunday to go on strike. One employee chose to stay working.

Contract negotiations resume Thursday.

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