CHULA VISTA, Calif. — Sanitation workers in Clairemont Mesa and Chula Vista have stopped negotiating with their company and are now officially on strike. Union members hit the picket line late Friday and said they’ll continue picketing around the clock.
Their job is to pick up the trash, but union members said they’re being treated like trash by Republic Services. Members said they want to be compensated fairly and most importantly they want safer working conditions.
“Safety issue here is a big concern. We’re driving trucks that shouldn’t be on the street,” said Manny Puma, Shop Steward for Teamsters Local 542 and driver for Republic Services in Chula Vista.
More than 250 sanitation workers employed by Republic Services, have walked off the job in the San Diego area, including locations on Newton and Armor Street, after contract talks broke down last week.
“Ninety-five percent of us live here in the City of Chula Vista so it’s not just a job. This is our community. Our kids go to school here. Our family lives here so it’s even a bigger deal for us to keep the city clean,” Puma said.
Republic Services is the second-largest waste collection company in the country. Union leaders from the International Brotherhood of Teamsters say the company is also negotiating about similar issues with workers in Orange County, Los Angeles, and New Orleans. The Phoenix-based company operates in 41 states and employs about 30,000 workers.
“We’re picking up residential - 1,300 to 1,400 homes a day. No matter what the weather condition is, we’re out there servicing our customers. Sometimes we’re hampered by machines that aren’t safe. Trucks that are leaking oil,” Puma said.
Workers said the strike will undoubtedly affect residents the most and if they can’t come to an agreement soon, they expect the garbage to pile up pretty quickly. Chula Vista Councilmember Jill Galvez, District 2, also came out to the picket line Monday night to get feedback from the strikers.
“Their number one concern is safety of their vehicles and I agree with them. I don’t want to see unsafe trucks traveling through our neighborhoods and residences. They also would like to get back to the table about their benefits and wages and some working conditions,” Galvez said.
Councilmember Galvez said Republic Services has also reached out to the City of Chula Vista for guidance and she said the city will do whatever it can to help the two come to an agreement.
Republic Services released the following statement:
"Trash and recycling service has been temporarily delayed due to an unanticipated work stoppage at Republic Services. The company is in contract negotiations with a union representing some of its employees in San Diego County. Those employees are engaged in a temporary work stoppage at Republic’s Chula Vista, Newton, Armour Street and Claremont Mesa locations. Eastgate customers are not impacted at this time. Because of this, Republic is experiencing significant delays in collection service but is working to resolve this situation as soon as possible. Residents and businesses are asked to leave containers out and available for collection, and they will be serviced as soon as this weekend. We apologize for the inconvenience and are doing everything we can to resolve the temporary situation. Thank you for your patience and understanding."
San Diegans are feeling the impacts of delayed trash pick-ups and have shared pictures of overflowing dumpsters.
Dohney Castillo of Teamsters Local 542 said he and his coworkers will continue to march in their picket line until their contract negotiations for better pay, safer trucks and conditions are met.
“To be honest, we are really just wanting respect from the company you know. We worked all the way throughout COVID and not just COVID but in general we are out here and we love our jobs, but to not have safety out there and for them to not give us a fair contract isn’t right,” Castillo said.
San Diego County Supervisor Nathan Fletcher and his wife Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez visited the strikers’ picket line Tuesday in Chula Vista saying the sanitation workers are in one of the most dangerous industries.
“I believe that it’s vital that Republic Services get to the bargaining table and negotiate in good faith and take care of their workers. Your trash got picked up every day throughout COVID, and these folks were exposed when there wasn’t a vaccine,” Fletcher said.
Union members say they are working with working in trucks that have oil leaks and pose serious safety concerns.
Contract negotiations are to continue Wednesday. Trash is still being picked up at some locations, but service has been severely delayed by the strike.
“We love our job and keeping the community clean, but just a fair contract, that is all we are asking for,” Castillo said.
WATCH: Supervisor Nathan Fletcher speaks with News 8 about why sanitation workers are on strike (Dec. 21, 2021)