SAN DIEGO COUNTY, Calif. — Friday marks another major turning point in the sanitation strike that's been going on for nearly a month. The City of Chula Vista will hold a special meeting Saturday to formally declare a Public Health Emergency.
The Special City Council meeting was supposed to be held virtually at 4 p.m. Friday at www.chulavistaca.gov/councilmeetings. However, there were technical difficulties with streaming services and the meeting will now be on Saturday, Jan. 15 at 6 p.m.
Council Chambers are expected to be closed with no public in attendance.
“This is a public health emergency,” declared Chula Vista Mayor Mary Casillas Salas. “We shouldn’t have to move staff from their regular jobs to help clear some of the trash that has piled up over the past four weeks, but unfortunately that is what we have to do. The best way to get this resolved is to have all parties get back to the negotiating table and come to agreement on a fair deal for our essential sanitation workers.”
This declaration allows Chula Vista to invoke a Self-Help clause in its contract with Republic. Meaning now the city can do whatever it can to get rid of the trash.
With trash piled up for the last month in parts of San Diego and Chula Vista, other local leaders say they’re also taking action to get rid of the trash and protect people’s health.
San Diego Mayor Todd Gloria also released a statement Friday, saying:
“With no resolution after weeks of negotiation between Republic Services and its striking workers, my office has given the company until Monday before escalating action to compel the trash hauler to meet their obligations under their franchise agreement. The situation as it stands is unacceptable and a public health and safety threat. I have supported and encouraged compromise. My next steps are fining the company, pursuing their performance bond and asking the City Council for authorization to seek an injunction to force compliance with terms of the agreement, which include weekly pickup and recycling of green and solid waste. Further options are suspension and termination of the franchise.”
Chula Vista Councilman John McCann, from District 1, says even though the public health emergency hasn’t been made official, the City Manager still has the authority to use city staff and other groups to help clean up.
McCann says Chula Vista's City Council will also do everything in its power to ensure residents’ health and safety is the top priority and that Republic fulfills its contractual obligations.
“We are doing all of the steps legally to be able to do that. We hope that the Teamsters and Republic Services will be able to find an agreement that will be a win-win. But we have to put our citizens first and if Republic Services is not going to pick up our trash, we’re going to need to find somebody else who will,” McCann said.
Republic Services also issued a statement to CBS 8 Friday, saying:
"Republic Services is grateful for our longstanding partnership with the city of Chula Vista, and we share our community’s frustration that the union-led work stoppage has yet to be resolved. As part of the contract negotiation process, we conducted an extensive market analysis and found that our wages and benefits were very competitive among our industry in the Chula Vista/San Diego market. The offer we put forth includes significant increases in wages and benefits in addition to other enhancements to our employees’ total compensation packages. We remain willing to return to negotiations but have yet to hear how the union would like to proceed. We continue to work closely with the City of Chula Vista staff to collaborate on plans and approaches to navigating the situation."
Following are actions the city manager is implementing to address the local emergency:
- Starting Wednesday, January 12, City teams were deployed to collect trash surrounding dumpsters at multi-family complexes and take it to the landfill. This will clear the area around the bins so Republic Services trucks can more efficiently access the bins and dump the waste into their trucks.
- In the interests of public health, staff is picking up overflow trash that is unsightly, attracting rodents and bugs and affecting the quality of life for the community.
- Upwards of 30 staff from Community Services, Public Works, and Environmental Services have been redirected to pick up and transport the overflow trash, respond to inquiries, and coordinate public requests for assistance with trash. The City also is enlisting support from contractors such as Work for Hope and Alpha Project to assist with overflow pick up.
- This effort is focused on clearing overflow trash in the City at multi-family housing complexes initially and then to commercial and industrial locations. This effort does not include emptying individual trash carts or dumpsters as the City does not have the equipment to do that safely. Republic Services is responsible for that.
- While the City does not have the staff or equipment to provide this service long-term, this effort will help reduce the mounds of overflow trash that are unsightly, attract bugs and rodents, and affect the quality of life for residents.
- The City Manager authorized the use of overtime for this weekend to continue efforts to clean up the City as soon as possible.
- The City also will establish an email and set up a call center for residents to report overflowing trash. These services will be live by Tuesday, January 18.
- The City will continue to coordinate with Republic Services to help with efficiencies to reduce the pile-up of trash in the community.
A GoFundMe page has been set up to help support the sanitation workers.
The Special City Council meeting is being held virtually at 4 p.m. at www.chulavistaca.gov/councilmeetings. Once the agenda is published, the public may submit eComments before the meeting or live during the Council meeting. Council Chambers will be closed and there will be no public in attendance.