United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit rules in favor of Local 20 members; Court ruling is the latest in a series of labor relations missteps at Republic Services
(WASHINGTON) – Last week, the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit enforced an arbitrator’s decision that Republic Services violated the collective bargaining agreement for members of Teamsters Local 20 in Elyria, Ohio. The arbitrator found that the company improperly denied the workers the agreed-upon incentive pay rates. As a result of the court’s decision, affected workers will now receive significant retroactive compensation.
“It means a lot to us to win this decision. We have been treated unfairly. Other employees were paid more while Republic Services kept us at a lower rate,” said Thomas Coultrip, a Republic Services residential driver who filed the original grievance against the company. “In the end, that was pretty much what was right. The company tried to impose one on us and we refused to bear it. This is a great victory for justice.
In 2017, management unilaterally changed worker profit-sharing rates, costing them hundreds of thousands of dollars. Brother Coultrip’s grievance was submitted to arbitration and the arbitrator decided that it was valid. The company went to court to overturn the arbitrator’s decision. The Sixth Circuit’s March 8 ruling decisively ruled that the arbitrator correctly decided that the company violated the collective bargaining agreement. The court upheld the arbitrator’s finding that the company’s actions had cost $2,859.48 per year to the drivers of the waste collection routes and $17,837.76 per year to the drivers of the recycling routes.
“The court decision was a long time coming. I was a commercial agent when these workers’ rights were violated in 2017. The company thought it could bend the rules, but we fought this fight from arbitration to the second highest court in the land and have shown the services of the Republic that they are not above the law. From now on, the workers will receive the back wages which are legitimately due to them. Teamsters Local 20 will always fight to ensure employers respect workers with fair treatment and fair rates for our members,” said Local 20 President Mark Schmiehausen.
Ohio’s ruling is just the latest in a string of labor law violations by Republic Services. On December 9, 2021, more than 400 sanitation workers employed by Republic Services in Orange County, California went on strike in response to the company’s unfair labor practices during contract negotiations, including making unilateral changes to working conditions and threatening retaliation against employees who have participated in union activities.
A week after Orange County workers took to the picket line, more than 400 San Diego County workers began a month-long strike against Republic over similar disputes in contract negotiations. During both strikes, workers received support from their communities and local political leaders. During the San Diego strike, the mayor of the city of Chula Vista spoke out and called on the company to negotiate a fair contract.
In addition to these contractual disputes, Republic Services also faces legal liability for violation of the legal rights of its employees. Just last week, Waste Dive reported that Republic was told it had violated workers’ rights by engaging in unlawful discrimination in Georgia. [link article here]. In January, the Teamsters Union released the disturbing results of a nationwide survey of Republican workers. The survey found that a majority of workers of color reported high concerns about discrimination and abuse. The survey results are available here.
Republic Services [NYSE: RSG] is the second largest waste collection and landfill company in America. In 2020, Republic Services earned over $10 billion, with net income of $1.2 billion, while its CEO’s total compensation was over $12 million. Republic’s largest shareholder is Microsoft founder Bill Gates, and Gates’ investment adviser sits on Republic’s board of directors. Earlier this year, Republic awarded its board members increased compensation totaling hundreds of thousands of dollars in cash and stock.
The International Brotherhood of Teamsters represents more than 7,000 Republic Services workers across the United States
“We constantly see that the services of the Republic exploit and mistreat their workers. There is no excuse for this behavior. The decision of the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit is proof that justice will ultimately prevail when it comes to this company’s treatment of workers,” said Chuck Stiles, director of the solid waste division. and recycling the Teamsters. “It is high time that Republic Services respect the rights of its employees because labor relations are at an all-time low. The Teamsters will not back down until every worker is treated and compensated fairly.
Founded in 1903, the International Brotherhood of Teamsters represents 1.4 million hard-working men and women in the United States, Canada and Puerto Rico. Visit www.teamster.org for more information. Follow us on Twitter @Teamsters and ‘like’ us on Facebook at www.facebook.com/teamsters.