Garbage Collectors in Maryland Agree to Mediation
Saturday, January, 24, 2015
Following a thirteen-day strike that saw trash pile up in the area, newly unionized garbage collectors have agreed to enter into mediation with their employer, Unity Disposal, and return to work while a new contract is negotiated. The strike centered on wages, benefits, and unfair labor practices the workers claim they have endured.
Both sides met with a federal mediator, who urged the workers to return to work as a sign of good faith, which the new union agreed to do. The company services about 60,000 residents in the area, who had to watch their trash accumulate on their property during the strike.
The workers at Unity make about $25,000 if they are collectors (rising on the backs of trucks and physically collecting the trash) and $35,000 a year if they are drivers. Workers unionized in 2014 after several years passed without any raises being offered. When Unity refused to even consider offering raises in 2015, negotiations broke down and the union voted to strike.
The claim of unfair labor practices is crucial, as under federal law it prevents Unity from replacing workers during a work stoppage and forces them to re-hire workers when a strike ends into their prior positions and with their prior compensation. Unity Disposal had opposed any attempts by its employees to unionize, but now must negotiate under the watchful eye of a federal mediator, which the union hopes will encourage a more cooperative attitude. Community pressure is also a factor, as residents have expressed support for the workers and blame the company for the lack of trash pickup.