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Waste Management's Holding Oakland's Need To Rid Garbage Hostage

I've never ever liked the Waste Managment contract and believed it was the best example of the worst of privitization, the next being SMG, which manages the Oakland Coliseum. Sorry, but I'm no far of privitization.

Residents fume over stinky garbage
Reports of restored service a bunch of trash talk, they say
Christopher Heredia, Chronicle Staff Writer
Thursday, July 19, 2007

Talks in the drawn-out East Bay garbage-hauler lockout recessed Wednesday without breakthroughs, while Waste Management Inc. said service was restored to pre-lockout levels but many customers complained they were still getting partial or no service.

"It's a mess," said Pamela Drake, director of the Lakeshore Business Improvement District near Lake Merritt, where cans in the shopping district normally emptied by Waste Management were overflowing.

"They haven't been doing any pickup at all," she said. Drake said she drove to Waste Management's headquarters on 98th Avenue only to be told by a guard that the office was closed and to phone in her complaint.

Talks were set to resume today at 1 p.m.

Federal mediator Jerry Allen, in his first public remarks, said after Wednesday's bargaining session that the talks were meaningful. Allen, who on Monday issued a gag order preventing either side from discussing details of the negotiations, said he gave both Waste Management of Alameda County and Teamsters Local 70 homework.

James Devlin, area vice president for Waste Management, and Chuck Mack, secretary-treasurer for Local 70, described the latest round of talks as constructive, but neither would say whether the company or union had offered any compromises at the bargaining table.

Before Wednesday, neither side had publicly shown any willingness to back down from their respective demands -- the company seeking in a new contract the teeth to punish reckless drivers and an agreement banning strikes and lockouts and the Teamsters seeking to maintain the existing contract.

Oakland Mayor Ron Dellums expressed hope that a deal could be struck but warned that Waste Management and the Teamsters union, which represents the locked-out garbage-truck drivers, are wading through very difficult issues.

Even so, he said, the resumption of talks Wednesday with a federal mediator marked some progress. Dellums participated as a mediator in the talks on Monday and Wednesday, and will be returning to the bargaining table today.

Mack said locked-out workers are now on the picket line at Waste Management's landfill in Livermore and at a facility on Guadalupe Mines Road in San Jose.

Mack said the company wants employees to pay part of rising health care costs and give up union protections in cases where drivers are found guilty of safety violations. The company's contract with Local 70 expired June 30 and Waste Management locked out its drivers July 2 in what company officials described as a preemptive move against a rumored Teamsters strike.
The company says accident rates for its local Teamster drivers are much higher than the firm's national average.

On Tuesday, Alameda County Superior Court Judge Richard Keller ordered Waste Management to pick up trash in Oakland pursuant to its contract with the city.

In a statement today, Waste Management officials said the company served the same number of routes Tuesday as it had before the labor dispute. Replacement trash collectors collected 1,844 tons of trash, 6 percent more than the daily average during the last week of June, the company said.

"These increases in volume are objective evidence that the company is succeeding in its efforts to reduce the amount of waste that may have accumulated during the first week of the work stoppage," the company said.

But many customers remain unconvinced -- and some have resorted to running after trash trucks or confronting replacement workers in hope of getting their garbage removed.

Katie Axelson, who owns a house and a duplex on East 23rd Street in East Oakland, said her tenants have not has their trash picked up since the end of June and that piles of festering garbage are attracting rats. She's been on the phone daily with Waste Management's customer service employees to no avail. She plans to send the exterminator bill to the company and withhold payment for a month of service.

"It doesn't even sound like they know what they're doing," Axelson said. "I'm pretty angry and frustrated. We have new tenants who just moved in and now they're dealing with a rat problem in the house. It's a very clean property. We've never had a rodent problem before. It's a helpless feeling that they're not taking care of it."
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