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Cities Tally Fines On Day Eight Of Trash Strike

Ann Dornfeld

It's day eight of the trash strike. That means cities in King, Snohomish and Skagit Counties can start to levy major fines against Waste Management for missed garbage, recycling and yard waste pickups.

As KUOW's Ann Dornfeld reports, plenty of Seattle residents are taking advantage of the free dump trips the city is allowing during the strike.


By midday, the line of cars outside Seattle's north transfer station stretched for blocks down North 34th Street.

A weary–looking Steve Warren sat in his Prius in the hot sun with the windows rolled down. His back seat was filled with black trash bags.

Steve Warren: "They said it was about a 20–minute wait. I've been in line about 50 minutes so far, and I've still got to get in and through. So, I'd say it's probably gonna be an hour to an hour and a half by the time I'm done."

Waste Management says it's brought in enough replacement drivers to pick up residential garbage in most cities in the region.

But not recycling or yard waste.

The company says it is now covering all of its commercial routes except in Skagit County.

Many cities have told Waste Management they intend to follow through on the major penalties that kick in now that the strike is more than a week old.

Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn held a news conference to stress that the city intends to collect up to $1.2 million a day for missed routes and credit it back to customers' bills.

Mike McGinn: "We will be rigorously inspecting Waste Management's work. We have 19 inspectors out around the city. You can help us as well. We'd like you to put your carts out for pickup on your usual scheduled day. Leave them out until 6:00 p.m. the following day — unless, of course, they're emptied."

Customers can also report missed routes at the utilities website, or by Tweeting a missed pickup with a photo of the full bin, the block and hashtag: #theymissedme.

Waste Management is trying to minimize potential fines by flying in replacement drivers from around the country.

The company calls the replacement workers the Green Team. The Teamsters just call them scabs.

As the replacement drivers roll up to this South Seattle transfer station, they're greeted by jeering Teamster picketers.

Picketer: "You know what it's like to make 24 bucks an hour? You gotta fight for it to get there! It's the reason you have radios and air conditioning in your truck! 'Cause we fought for it!"

One of the picketers is Jay Bleakley. He's a commercial front load driver for Waste Management. Bleakley says the Teamsters are settling in for the long haul.

Jay Bleakley: "After all the research that we've done on the Green Team and strikes, when these guys come in, it's gonna be a long one. They don't bring all these people in from around the United States — 150, 300 people, however many they have here — they don't bring these guys in for a day or two. And we're ready for it. Y'know, they wanna fight, fine, we'll fight."

One round in that fight appears to be robocalls warning area residents that replacement workers are driving dangerously.

Robocall: "Please be careful. Tell your children to stay out of the way of the trucks. Call police if you see something dangerous."

Robin Freedman: "It's so unfactual."

That's Waste Management spokeswoman Robin Freedman.

Robin Freedman: "The men and women driving to routes today have the same exact qualifications that the guys and gals walking the picket line."

A Seattle Police spokesman says he's not aware of any serious incidents involving Waste Management drivers this week.

Back in the long line at the dump, in a car filled with trash, Seattle resident Steve Warren says he's ready for this fight to be over.

Steve Warren:"There's so many people that want the work at this point, I just say, replace 'em."

The Teamsters say they'll return to the bargaining table as soon as Waste Management is willing.

Waste Management says it won't bargain as long as the Teamsters are off the job.

I'm Ann Dornfeld, KUOW News.

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