Chicago Garbage Strike Settled

Garbage collectors reached a tentative agreement with a private waste hauler's association early Thursday on the ninth day of a strike that left heaping piles of trash throughout the Chicago area.

Chicago Area Refuse Haulers Association spokesman Bill Plunkett said the association accepted a proposal offered by Teamsters representatives after a nearly 20-hour long bargaining session with a federal mediator.

The 3,300 striking Teamsters handle garbage for private waste haulers in Chicago's high-rise dwellings and in the suburbs. In some cases, city sanitation workers stepped in to empty overflowing bins.

Teamsters and the waste-hauling association, which represents 17 private companies, clashed over wages, benefits and contract length. Plunkett said the latest proposal calls for a 28 percent increase in wages and benefits over the next five years.

Additional details of the proposed deal were not immediately released.

Teamsters Local 731 spokesman Terry Hancock said union members will vote on the proposal Thursday afternoon. "We believe it's a fair proposal…it addresses the needs of our members and we are very grateful to the mediator," Hancock said.

If approved, garbage trucks could be back on the street as early as 6 p.m. and will continue working through the night until all the garbage that has accumulated has been picked up, Hancock said.

"We'll set up multiple shifts to try and catch up," Hancock said.

During the strike, trash collection stopped for about 200 of Chicago's 600 public schools. Most of the 200 have trash compactors, but garbage was piled high in the bins for the 82 that don't.

Some restaurants, government buildings and skyscrapers downtown, including the 100-story John Hancock Center, were storing trash in their dock areas until the strike was declared over. In many alleys, chains were used to help keep the bulging lids on trash bins.

The city's sanitation department, which removes trash at smaller buildings and single-family homes, picked up garbage at Wrigley Field and surrounding businesses because the Cubs are hosting the National League Championship Series.

Mayor Richard Daley has said the city will have to recoup the additional costs resulting from the strike, either from the union or from the haulers association.

The previous contract expired Sept. 30.
By Nathaniel Hernandez