Editorial: In the garbage strike, it's you over the barrel

Watching the garbage collection strike unfold is almost amusing save for the fact that it will eventually cost us all more money. Allowing trash to mount for a few days isn't that big of a deal. It is more of an annoying symbol of the stranglehold Waste Management and the Teamsters union has on our communities.

This charade is played out every few years in order for this monopoly to further gouge us to take away our household waste. The cities which grant the right to collect trash to one of the two companies in the region which do so are over the same barrel we are.

Here's how it works: The city gives the trash hauler a contract to do the work. The trash hauler employes the Teamsters to do the hauling. That arrangement ties up the community for periods of years. This deal makes it worthwhile for the trash hauler to buy the expensive trucks needed to do the job. The Teamsters just have to show up for work, which more or less is driving around an expensive truck for a few hours. For this work, they want nearly $100,000 including benefits per man per year.

Not to quibble over these inflated salaries, but to realize the whole thing is a sham and an orchestrated sideshow. We don't resent the money paid to the drivers. We do resent the fact that this is a choreographed event.

The union grumbles that they want (need?) more money. And that they have been out of contract for some months and by God, they want to be heard. Waste Management tells them to shove it. The union is offended. They make demands. Waste Management balks at the demands and counters. The union walks, pickets and allows your refuse to pile up, just to show you they can. The local TV stations gobble it up because they have a visual; picketers blocking some garbage trucks (union rules allow only two minutes of blocking per truck) and getting a few days off with pay from the union kitty.

Waste Management execs are just finishing their ridiculously expensive lunch, watching with disdain the picketers on TV and sucking on a tooth. Later in the afternoon, they will take a call from a federal mediator (who came into the picture because federal labor laws make them a partner between management and the union and these overfed bureaucrats need something to do anyway). This tactic furthers the charade and allows the mediator to shuffle back and forth between the company and the haulers with terms.

This game is played out nearly every contract renewal season. The outcome is more money for the union workers and more money for the company, which, hat in hand, goes back to the city with a long face to let us know they will have to charge more for pickup because of demands from the union.

If the city had any scruples and guts, they would not agree to a contract that permitted the haulers to strike, ever. But behind-the-scenes machinations must bring strong pressure on our elected officials, who fear the loss of affection from certain segments of the community.

There is nothing you can do about it. So shut up and lump it.

We encourage our readers to comment. No registration is required. We ask that you keep your comments free of profanity and keep them civil. They are moderated and objectionable comments will be removed.