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Trash trucks rolling in Seattle; drivers approve contract

GAbriel Spitzer

Teamsters who drive yard waste and recycling trucks for Waste Management in the Seattle-Everett area of Washington have voted to accept a new contract.

Thursday's vote ends a strike that disrupted garbage pickups for more than a week.

The agreement likely means more than 200,000 customers can expect the return of regular service to dump garbage, yard waste and recycling bins that have been drawing flies since a strike began July 25.

Drivers gathered at the Teamsters union hall in Tukwila over and over again said the same thing. They were glad the strike was over. Brent Bliven has been working in the industry for 16 years. This was his first strike.

"Walking the lines is worse than being out at work," Bliven said. "My legs are hurting and I just want to get out there and get limber and take care of my customers."

Teamsters organizer Brenda Wiest says they were pleased the company agreed to make changes to what Waste Management had called its last, best and final offer.  She says the company agreed to pension and wage increases, though she declined to give specifics on the contract. Wiest says it helped that municipalities like Seattle were prepared to impose penalties on Waste Management. The company faced fines of $1.25 million a day from the city of Seattle for missed pickups.

"The pressure elected officials put on them in terms of levying fines was obviously a factor," Wiest said.

The company is telling residential and commercial customers to put out their bins if Thursday is their regular collection day.

Waste Management had provided limited service with out-of-state drivers and was planning to hire permanent replacements.

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In July 2017, Ashley Gross became KNKX's youth and education reporter after years of covering the business and labor beat. She joined the station in May 2012 and previously worked five years at WBEZ in Chicago, where she reported on business and the economy. Her work telling the human side of the mortgage crisis garnered awards from the Illinois Associated Press and the Chicago Headline Club. She's also reported for the Alaska Public Radio Network in Anchorage and for Bloomberg News in San Francisco.
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