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Chula Vista to declare Public Health Emergency amid trash workers strike

Posted at 8:11 AM, Jan 13, 2022
and last updated 2022-01-14 12:07:42-05

CHULA VISTA, Calif. (KGTV) – With the sanitation workers’ strike in its fourth week and trash piling up in some Chula Vista neighborhoods, the city manager declared a local emergency on Wednesday, and the City Council is set to ratify that declaration on Friday.

Chula Vista City Councilmember Jill Galvez said the declaration was originally scheduled to be ratified during the Jan. 18 City Council meeting.

However, a special meeting was set for 4 p.m. Friday to put the plan in motion. The declration allows Chula Vista to bring in a third party to collect trash and then bill Republic Services.

“The state of trash accumulation in our city is unacceptable, but especially so at our multifamily housing developments throughout our city,” Galvez said in a statement.

In a press release from the City Manager’s office, the vote ratifying the declaration would redirect upwards of 30 city employees from different departments, such as Public Works and Environment Services, to help with the overflowing trash.

"What you're seeing is the use of city resources consistent with a public health emergency to help alleviate some of that overflow that's cause by the current situation,” Councilmember Steve Padilla said. “It’s doing it on a very focused, very pinpoint, very limited basis. But yes, it’s going to have an impact on other city-wide operations.”

Galvez also said, “I have also requested that the City Manager assess penalties and fines to Republic Services for each violation of our contract, and to take the next steps to hire outside firm(s) to pick up trash that Republic has failed to do on a weekly basis since December 17, 2021.”

On Thursday afternoon, Galvez told ABC 10News the city would direct workers to clear up all of the trash overflowing outside of dumpsters.

"All of the overflow trash that’s adjacent to the large dumpsters and large bins that you see at multifamily residences will be picked up," said Galvez.

She said this would clear the way for the Republic Services trucks to remove the trash inside of dumpsters.

Galvez also told ABC 10News the city is also getting help from the Alpha Project and Work for Hope teams, which include unsheltered people hired by the city for special projects. Galvez said the city would pay the workers, but also bill Republic Services.

"Republic has a $1 million bond for their contract, and we will be charging against that bond," she explained.

People can watch Friday's public meeting here.

Republic Services sent the following statement to ABC 10News on Friday.

Republic Services is grateful for our longstanding partnership with the city of Chula Vista, and we share our community’s frustration that the union-led work stoppage has yet to be resolved. As part of the contract negotiation process, we conducted an extensive market analysis and found that our wages and benefits were very competitive among our industry in the Chula Vista/San Diego market. The offer we put forth includes significant increases in wages and benefits in addition to other enhancements to our employees’ total compensation packages. We remain willing to return to negotiations but have yet to hear how the union would like to proceed. We continue to work closely with the City of Chula Vista staff to collaborate on plans and approaches to navigating the situation.

Councilmember Padilla and others in the city council have been supportive of the striking union workers and critical of republic services.

“It’s not the workers’ fault that the trash is piling up in Chula Vista. It’s because you can’t get to a fair agreement for your workers and value them in a sustainable way,” Padilla said at Tuesday night's council meeting.

ABC 10News asked Padilla why not the city hire the striking sanitation workers on as city employees to provide them the fair and comparable wages that the city council is supporting.

“That’s a very good question. And I can tell you and share with you that that and many other options are being discussed at city hall,” Padilla said.

“Obviously, if the city were to consider that, there’d be a lot of upfront capital costs. There’s a lot of equipment and fleet and things to be acquired. But again, I just want to emphasize that the city is looking at every option available to us.”