Striking Teamsters upset by replacements

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Citizens brace for picket line violence as stench rises

Trash cans and recycling bins were full throughout southeast Wisconsin on Wednesday as a strike by Waste Management truck-driver Teamsters entered its second day with no signs of a settlement in sight. From Germantown and Menomonee Falls to the Town of Somers in Kenosha County, Waste Management customers are experiencing delays in the pickup of their trash and recyclables as a result of the strike.

Replacement workers began arriving to pick up the slack, but the chances of a contract resolution between Waste Management and Local 200 of the Teamsters worsened Wednesday. The company filed an unfair labor practices charge against the union, accusing the union of failing to bargain in good faith.

“It’s become obvious to everyone that the union was simply stalling in the hope that their walkout would disrupt the Harley celebration,” said Michael Fleming, Waste Management’s general manager in Wisconsin. “It’s disappointing that after refusing to meet for so long, the union is trying to penalize the people of this community by attempting to disrupt our services.”

Harley-Davidson’s 105th Anniversary Celebration, which officially launched Wednesday, is bringing tens of thousands of people to the Milwaukee area.

The union did not have an immediate comment on the charge that Waste Management filed with the National Labor Relations Board.

The union has already filed a complaint against the company with the NLRB, accusing Waste Management of failing to bargain in good faith.

Tom Millonzi, secretary-treasurer of Local 200, said the estimated 240 Teamsters on strike were prepared to stay out “as long as it takes.”

“I do think it’s obvious that if you inject 100,000 or more Harley visitors into Milwaukee, that will cause more refuse,” he said. “Then you compound that with (replacement) drivers who don’t know where they’re going. You can come to a logical conclusion.”

Kristi Cullen figures she could hardly have picked a worse time to remodel her bathroom.

The Menomonee Falls resident was aghast Wednesday to learn that the strike meant nobody was coming to haul away the discarded toilet outside her house.

“That’s a shock,” she said. “I don’t want garbage at the end of my driveway.”

But garbage remains at the end of a lot of driveways.

Trash cans lined streets in neighborhoods where Waste Management crews were scheduled to provide curbside pickups. City officials said the trash hauler was running at least one day behind schedule with replacement workers.

Judy Neale, another Menomonee Falls resident, said she was concerned about how quickly her family of five would accumulate more trash.

“Oh, my gosh, my garage will be full,” she said.

Taxpayers in Menomonee Falls pay about $1.5 million a year for Waste Management’s services.

Arlyn Johnson, the village’s director of public works, said most residents who called to complain about their garbage weren’t aware of the strike. He said Waste Management had assured him it would maintain service.

Some municipal officials are reviewing their contracts with Waste Management to determine whether it is possible to end the agreements if delays persist.

“I’ve got to think that this is not going to be smooth for any community that has contracts with Waste Management,” said Germantown Village President Tom Kempinski, who asked the village attorney to review Germantown’s contract.

In Cedarburg, where the Common Council approved a new five-year contract with Waste Management on Monday, officials said garbage pickups were running a half-day behind.

In Milwaukee, Waste Management doesn’t do residential pickup, but does move garbage from city transfer stations to landfills. So far, those transfers have not been delayed and the company has assured the city that “there will not be a problem,” said Cecelia Gilbert, spokeswoman for the city Department of Public Works.

Deb Berchem of the Town of Somers is afraid critters will come calling as the garbage hangs around.

“If it doesn’t get picked up, it’s going to be a mess,” said Berchem, whose trash was supposed to have been hauled away by 8 a.m. Wednesday.


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