SAN DIEGO (KGTV) — Across parts of the City of San Diego and Chula Vista, the Republic Services sanitation workers strike continues, and now workers have extended the picket line to Seattle, Washington.
“It’s a complete mess; the only thing we want is a fair contract. We want to get back on the streets as soon as possible,” said Rafael Mejia, who has been a driver for Republic Services for several years and is a member of Teamsters Local 542.
Mejia has been on strike at the Kearny Mesa location for weeks but arrived in Seattle with nearly a dozen colleagues on Tuesday. They are now outside of several sites there, to make a point.
“The drivers they respect the picket line, so they don’t cross it; they honor it. They honor our picket line, and they don’t go to work,” he said. “We’re just trying to tell the company how strong we are, just make sure they know that we are together, and regardless of what they do, they’re not going to break us.”
At a city council meeting Tuesday, officials with the City of Chula Vista addressed concerns and frustrations over trash piling up in communities since the strike was authorized in mid-December.
They also heard from Republic Services reps, who said they have met with the union for negotiations 15 times.
The council also went over some potential actions to take, like possibly declaring a public health emergency and looking into legal consequences against the company. The city is under a contract with Republic Services until 2024.
In part of a statement sent to ABC 10News last week after the union rejected a deal from Republic Services, the company said, “The company’s offer featured a highly competitive wage and total compensation package and had the support and encouragement of city partners and leadership.”
The workers on strike disagreed with that statement then and now.
“We want to get back and negotiate, and finish with this and get back to work as soon as possible,” Mejia said. He apologizes to the community suffering from trash pile-ups during the strike. “We just want to apologize to them; I want to tell them we want to get back to the streets as soon as possible, but unfortunately, it’s not up to us; it’s up to the company.”
Mejia pointed out that the company has already started posting job openings for drivers in San Diego.
A link ABC 10News found on the Republic Services careers page stated they were hiring 50 collection drivers in San Diego. The job description started with, “You are being hired to replace a striking employee, and the company requires you to work during the strike, including crossing union picket lines. For the purposes of the National Labor Relations Act only, you are classified as a permanent replacement for that employee. That means we intend to employ you as a “regular” employee.”
“The funny thing about it is the fact that they’re offering a higher pay rate than what we get now,” said Mejia, who adds he will remain on strike for however long it takes to get a fair deal.
“It’s not only about my family, but it’s about my Teamster brothers. I don’t want to cross the line simply because I have respect for my coworkers,” he said.
According to Jaime Vasquez, secretary-treasurer of Teamsters Local 542, the union representing the workers, they have not heard from Republic Services about when negotiations will continue.
Republic Services did not comment about the picket line extending to Seattle, but sent ABC 10News the following statement Wednesday afternoon:
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.