Letter Calls Upon Sanitation Giant to Halt Efforts to Destroy Retirement Security
(Memphis, TN) – Today, a delegation comprised of Rev. Mary Edwards, Greenleaf C.M.E. Church; Dr. Elena Delavega, Asst. Professor of Social Work at the University of Memphis; Rev. Herbert Lester, Asbury United Methodist Church; and Justin Sledge, philosophy graduate student at the University of Memphis, delivered an open letter from the Board of Concerned Community Leaders to Roger Lawrence, the General Manager of Republic Services/Allied Waste in the Memphis area. The letter called upon Republic/Allied Waste to cease its attacks on sanitation workers and their pensions. Mr. Lawrence met with the delegation today as they presented their concerns.
Republic/Allied Waste is the second-largest waste company in America. Last year its total revenues were more than $8.2 billion, with $589 million in profit. Sanitation work is the fourth-most dangerous job in America, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
The delegation’s letter stated, in part, “We believe it is unconscionable to risk the workers’ livelihood in old age. We believe it is unconscionable to expose the workers to untold dangers. And we believe it is unconscionable to neglect the needs and the rights of the workers who perform such an important and valuable service to our Memphis community.”
On Nov. 5, 2012, Rev. Edwards, Dr. Delavega, Rev. Lester and other clergy and community leaders had held a workers’ rights board hearing at the Gift of Life Ministries. At the hearing, sanitation workers from Republic/Allied Waste in the Memphis area testified about Republic’s abusive actions toward Memphis workers and Memphis communities.
At this hearing, sanitation workers described how, in recent contract negotiations, Republic is refusing to allow workers to keep their pension and their dignity and economic security in old age. The company also flew out-of-town replacement workers into Memphis last month in an attempt to bully its workers. Republic/Allied sanitation workers in the Memphis area are represented by Teamsters Local 984 in Memphis, Tenn.
“After hearing the stories of the backbreaking labor these sanitation workers perform, I cannot stay silent when a multi-billion dollar company like Republic/Allied Waste tries to take away their pension,” said Dr. Delavega.
The letter also stated, “Given the history of workers’ struggles in this city, such as the heroic 1968 Sanitation Workers’ Strike which saw the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., we support the workers of Allied/Republic in any action they deem fit to achieve the respect they deserve. While the workers themselves have expressed a desire to avoid any work-stoppages out of respect for their customers, the community understands that the basic human right of workers to strike expresses a legitimate and just response to their continued exploitation by Republic/ Allied Waste.”
Sanitation worker Robert Walker accompanied the delegation of community leaders to his worksite this morning.
“We put our lives on the line every day to protect the public health, and we deserve dignity and respect,” said Walker. “Instead, the company is threatening lockouts and trying to intimidate us.”
“Republic is holding Memphis hostage by threatening a public health and safety crisis to try to get workers to accept substandard working conditions,” said Rev. Lester.
Republic has tried to bully its workers in several cities in 2012. In May, the company locked out 80 workers in Evansville, Ind. for six weeks without pay, when the workers refused to accept a contract that stripped them of their pension. The company’s out-of-town replacement drivers damaged people’s homes, cars and even power lines.
In March 2012, Republic/Allied walked away from a ratified contract with Teamsters Local 991 in Mobile, Ala. Local 991 members were forced to strike to protest the company’s illegal behavior and finally secure a contract.
Republic/Allied Waste’s total revenues were more than $8.2 billion in 2011. It earned $149.2 million in 2nd quarter net profits in 2012, up from $46.5 million in the same period of 2011, an increase of more than 220 percent. This resulted in a 7 percent quarterly dividend for shareholders such as Bill Gates. As the largest owner of the company, Gates owns about $2.5 billion worth of stock, or about 25 percent of the total worth of the company. In May, the same month it locked out workers in Evansville, the company approved a death and disability benefit for its CEO valued at more than $23 million.