Striking workers early Friday morning. Members of Teamsters Local Union 728 who work at Republic Services’ location at 2530 Business Drive in Cumming are picketing for safer conditions.
Photo: Photo provided by Ben Speight of Teamsters Local Union 728
Photo: Photo provided by Ben Speight of Teamsters Local Union 728

North Fulton trash, recycling pick-up disruption tied to Mass. strike

Trash and recycling pick-ups throughout North Fulton have been disrupted because, beginning Friday, about 35 sanitation workers are honoring a strike that started in Massachusetts. 

Members of Teamsters Local Union 728 who work at Republic Services’ location at 2530 Business Drive in Cumming are advocating for safer conditions.  

“Republic is experiencing limited service disruptions in the North Fulton area only — the majority of the greater Atlanta area’s operations are running,” Republic spokeswoman Donna Egan said Friday. “We will pick up any missed collections and resume normal service in the North Fulton area as quickly as possible. We apologize for the inconvenience and are doing everything we can to resolve the temporary situation.” 

The Teamsters said Republic’s business and construction customers with addresses in Milton, Johns Creek, Roswell, Canton and Woodstock will also have delayed pick-ups. Republic has not provided the total number of customers affected.  

Workers have been forced to drive what they say are unsafe trucks, according to Chuck Stiles, vice president of Local 728 and assistant director for the Teamsters’ waste division.

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Alpharetta spokesman James Drinkard said the city has 3,341 Republic customers in single-family homes. He said Republic called Alpharetta about 8:30 a.m. Friday to say they will try to service everyone who should have gotten trash pick-up Friday and those they couldn’t get to would have their trash picked up Saturday.

Drinkard said Republic told them residents’ glass recycling and yard waste would not get picked up Friday. He said pick-up of those items will be delayed a week.

Stiles said this is all happening because metro Atlanta strikers are honoring a strike that was extended from Marshfield, Massachusetts.

According to The Patriot Ledger daily newspaper outside Boston, about two dozen drivers there are still on strike after six weeks of demanding improved wages and health benefits. The paper reported that, for the eighth time, the union failed to make a deal with Republic.

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Massachusetts workers were met with a cold Southern morning picketing outside the Cumming facility early Friday. By honoring the Massachusetts strike, local drivers will not cross their picket line here.

“We respect our employees and their right to union representation, but it is unfortunate that this small faction within the Teamsters organization is trying to disrupt local customers as a tool to pressure Republic in another state,” Egan said.

Stiles said metro Atlanta workers are also worried about those issues, but their main worry is about driving trucks they feel are unsafe.

He said problems with brakes, tires, wipers and headlights aren’t rare.

“With all this money the company has got, they should be reinvesting that money in the drivers, in the safety, in the equipment,” Stiles said.

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According to the publicly traded company’s recent quarterly report, Republic had a net income of $298 million in the third quarter and $783.8 million so far this year. Those are both up from 2018, when the company had a net income of $262.9 million in the third quarter and $736.5 million the first three quarters of last year.

Republic is often referred to as the second-largest sanitation company in the country; the largest stockholder is Cascade Investment, an investment group controlled by Microsoft founder Bill Gates. Cascade owns just over a third of Republic.

Egan said safety is the top concern for the company, adding that they offer competitive wages and benefits.

There was a week-long strike in August 2018 by 100 members of Local 728 who service Piedmont Hospital, Emory University, Emory Healthcare, Atlanta Public Schools, Hartsfield-Jackson Airport and some residential communities. The issues then were new agreements on insurance and annual raises.

From August 2018...

Republic Services is one of the largest Solid Waste Management companies operating in Atlanta. Workers have begun to strike for fair bargaining rights.

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