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Rare Rolling Sympathy Strike Beats Garbage Company That Tries to Trash Its Promise

Teamsters in Alabama went on strike against a giant garbage company--and in Seattle, New York and Ohio, workers joined them in solidarity, in a move that's usually illegal.

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Cause for Hope

On Wednesday, Alabama strikers welcomed the news that Republic Area Vice President Matt Locke, who had overseen local negotiations, had resigned from the company. McLean said Locke was one of the managers that would come by the picket line each morning “stomping their vehicles and laughing at us. But they won’t be doing it no more.” Wing said Wednesday the strike was “hurting them very bad…You just think about all the money they have to spend flying everybody around” to cross picket lines.

Stiles says a Republic manager approached him Wednesday on the picket line, implied that Locke was forced out over the strike, and emphasized his desire to resolve the dispute. That night, according to Lindsey, Republic’s Labor Relations Department e-mailed Local 991 Secretary-Treasurer Jim Gookins. “The words they used is, ‘We’re going to settle this,’” Lindsey said Thursday. He said that Republic proposed halting the strike immediately and returning to negotiations on Tuesday. The Teamsters responded that they won’t end the strike until the company affirmed the original agreement, and the two sides met Friday morning instead.

Lindsey says the Teamsters and Republic have agreed not to share details of the agreement until members have voted on it on Sunday. But Stiles says that under the deal, the smaller bargaining unit in Brewton, Alabama will have the exact contract terms they already ratified honored by Republic, and that for the larger bargaining unit in Mobile, the deal “was pretty much what we had said the settlement should have been anyway. But they actually gave us a couple of other little things that made it great.” Stiles says he’s confident the deal will be ratified on Sunday, and the strikers will return to work on Monday. “The workers are happy, the community is happy,” said Stiles.

Should they be called on in the future to show similar solidarity towards other striking Teamsters elsewhere, Alabama Teamsters said they’d be eager to mount sympathy strikes of their own. “If everything is within the law…” said Wing, “yes, I would stand up for them too. I mean, that’s what a union is all about.”

Editor's Note: This story has been updated to reflect Friday's news that Republic wants to settle with the Teamsters. 



Josh Eidelson is a freelance writer based in Philadelphia. He worked as a union organizer for five years. Check out his blog or follow him on Twitter.

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