Ratified Teamsters contract avoids garbage strike

LeMay Enterprises just barely avoided a garbage strike in Grays Harbor County by coming to an agreement with the Teamsters union for raises for its employees.

“This was a challenging set of negotiations mostly generated by contract language issues,” says Teamsters Secretary Darren O’Neil. “The bargaining unit stood together and this matter was brought to a successful resolution without interruption of services to the citizens of Grays Harbor County. Teamsters Union Local #252 would like to commend our members for their professional conduct throughout this sometimes-frustrating process.”

The issue has been simmering for months. At one point, LeMay Enterprises began advertising for potential strike replacement workers, noting that a “labor dispute is imminent” among its union workforce, which picks up trash and recycling across the Harbor and mans the garbage transfer station at Junction City. Waste Connections, which owns LeMay’s, even conducted a hiring fair in Aberdeen, seeking Class B garbage truck drivers, Class A tractor-trailer drivers, mechanics, equipment operators and other positions.

Members of the union were so frustrated with the situation they actually took a vote to see if they wanted to stay in the union this past spring. By an overwhelming majority, they decided to stay with the union.

LeMay Enterprises holds the contract for every city on the Harbor, except Hoquiam, as well as contracts to service the unincorporated areas of Grays Harbor, under the auspices of the state Utilities and Transportation Commission.

The union workers had been without a contract since September.

The new contract goes from Sept. 1, 2012, through May 1, 2016, and includes wage increases of 40 to 50 cents per hour for the final three years of the agreement, reduction of out-of-pocket medical insurance costs to employees by movement to a new medical plan, increases in pension contributions and a bonus.