The drivers said they were ready to strike over wage disparities between employees. A strike could interrupt service in several towns around Puget Sound.

SEATTLE – A group of 130 garden waste and recycling drivers with Republic Services voted unanimously to allow a strike on Saturday over wage disparities between employees. The drivers’ contract with the company expires on May 31, according to the union.

Republic Services provides residential and commercial recycling and yard waste disposal services to several towns in Puget Sound including Bellevue, Hunts Point, Medina, Kenmore, Lake Forest Park, North Bend, Auburn, Sammamish, Kent, Renton, Covington, Maple Valley, Black Diamond, Lynnwood, Monroe, Edmonds and commercial waste disposal in the city of Seattle, according to the union.

According to a union statement, Republic’s yard waste and recycling drivers, who are members of Teamsters Local 117, say they are not paid as much as garbage haulers.

“We drive the same trucks, do the same physically demanding work, but have lower wages, health care and pensions,” said Margarito Gonzalez, a union member who has worked in the solid waste industry for 45 years. . “Republic has kind of found a way to pay its CEO $ 110 million over the past four years, but we have to scratch and kick for pennies. The right thing for them to do is make sure that our pay is equal to that of our colleagues. “

The Teamsters Union also alleged that the International Brotherhood of Teamsters had received numerous reports of a lack of PPE that Republic workers needed, such as puncture-proof gloves, face masks, goggles. protection and face shields.

“We have been working throughout the pandemic,” said Troy McIntyre, a residential recycling driver who departs from Republic Services’ Bellevue depot. “At first we weren’t sure if it was safe to handle the equipment or if we even had to wear a mask. Nobody told us anything, they just told us to do the job.

Republic Services has confirmed that the company is negotiating with the union for a contract covering certain employees represented by the Teamsters in Seattle. A company spokesperson said employees are provided with adequate PPE.

“Our top priority is always the health and safety of our employees. We provide all employees with personal protective equipment (PPE) appropriate for their roles and have continued to make appropriate PPE available to all employees during the process. pandemic, “said a spokesperson. “We have also improved our protocols to help keep our facilities and equipment clean and safe, and to help ensure employee well-being. “