Day 2: Camden County sanitation workers striking for better pay
CAMDEN, N.J. (CBS) -- For a second day, trash haulers in several Camden County communities are walking the picket line instead of picking up the trash.
The union's contract is up and members want a new agreement. A picket line had formed in Camden Wednesday morning at a Waste Management facility as replacement workers arrived, causing a backup and leading to shouting.
"We don't want to be here," Christian Sharpe said. "We don't want to be out on strike. We want to go back to work we have families to provide for. We're here for our families."
Sharpe has worked for Waste Management for at least 10 years and says this strike comes after their contract with Waste Management expired Tuesday night.
There are 130 members of Teamsters Local 115 on strike Wednesday morning, and according to them, it's over unfair labor practices.
"We just want a fair contract," Sharpe said.
Contract negotiations have been going on since October.
A union representative says their contract with Waste Management has been broken several times. One example he gave: he says the Teamsters went to work all throughout the pandemic, oftentimes without the proper personal protective equipment.
He says their workers were given disposable deli gloves to collect trash, but they went to work anyway. He did also acknowledge that their contract is up, and they're fighting for a new one that would include higher wages.
He says those contract negotiations have been going on since the summer, but they've been fruitless because Waste Management has been unwilling to budge on pay, and they've been bargaining in bad faith.
Here's how this strike may affect some of our viewers.
These Waste Management workers are responsible for trash pickup and processing for the entire City of Camden. As well as the Borough of Haddonfield, and Winslow Township.
They have a lot of private contracts with major local retailers, including Wawa, Walmart and a number of private businesses.
We asked the Teamsters: while you are on strike, who will pick up the trash?
And CBS Philadelphia was told, "I'm not sure, but it won't be us."
We've reached out to the Camden mayor's office for comment but we're still waiting to hear back.
Here is what Waste Management told us about the strike:
"We've been in negotiations with Teamsters Local 115 who represent employees at our Camden, New Jersey hauling facility since October 2022. Although we are disappointed the Union has chosen to strike rather than to continue with good-faith negotiations, we have plans in place to ensure collection services continue with minimal short-term service disruptions or delays. WM of New Jersey remains committed to the collective bargaining process and we are hopeful that common ground can be reached with the Union and our employees soon."
Union reps claim they've been fruitless because Waste Management has been unwilling to budge on pay and health care.
"We don't feel like the company is negotiating fairly," Sharpe said. "We just want to sit back down at the table with them and go over our issues with them.
Meantime, the company flew in employees from other states to make up for those who are on strike. However, some residents and business owners are concerned about the impact of trash pickup in the city.
"If the workers are unhappy, the trash isn't going to get picked up," Ryan Walsh said. "I think they need to do the right thing and make sure workers are happy or else it'll make other people unhappy."
"We don't want our shoppers seeing trash on the streets when they're coming to shop at these high-end stores in downtown Haddonfield," Lauren Makinson said.
Camden Mayor Victor Carstarphen released a statement saying the city is sympathetic to the unionized employees and encourages waste management to settle their contract negotiations in a way that few are affected.
"'Mayor Victor Carstarphen and the City of Camden are sympathetic to the unionized employees at Waste Management and encourages Waste Management to settle their contract negotiations in a way that few are affected. The Mayor has instructed his team to work with Waste Management to ensure that the City of Camden's solid waste and recycling needs are met in a timely way."
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