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Oakland Waste Management Workers Back On The Job After Weeklong Strike

OAKLAND (CSB SF)— Waste Management recycling workers are returning to work Friday after a weeklong strike left a mountain of recycling piling up outside a San Leandro facility.

Workers started their strike on Oct. 26, setting up picket lines in front of the recycling sorting center at 2615 Davis St. in San Leandro and at the company's Alameda County headquarters at 172 98th Ave. in Oakland.

On Thursday, members of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union Local 6 voted 111-6 in support of the contract, which is largely unchanged from the proposal Waste Management made before the strike began, Waste Management officials and union representatives said.

Although most of the changes are small, union spokesman Craig Merrilees said the strike was effective.

"It was a decision that workers made and overwhelming insisted upon when faced with what they perceived was corporate arrogance and greed," Merrilees said. "A response had to be made...It shows the unity and determination of the workers."

The contract provides employees, many of whom were making $12.50 per hour, with a $1.48 pay raise, with wages increasing to $20.94 by 2019. Employees will pay $35 per month for family health benefits and increases will be capped at $10 per month annually, according to Waste Management and the union.

Waste Management spokesman Joe Camero said some of the changes included a tiered ratification bonus package for workers when they sign the contract with employees receiving $500-$1,500 depending on how long they've been working for the company.

The six-year contract will be in effect until 2020, Camero said.

"They're going back to work with their heads held high and dramatic improvements that are not only going to benefit them but will be sure to inspire other workers in Alameda County," Merrilees said.

Merrilees said the contract victory marked the third successful effort in less than a year by East Bay Recycling workers to secure wage improvement and affordable family health care benefits. In July, recycling workers employed by California Waste Solutions won a similar package, Merrilees said.

In December 2013, Merrilees said BLT Enterprises in Fremont did the same. The new contracts followed a February 2013 "Recyclers Convention" where recycling workers from across the East Bay joined community supporters in discussing ways to secure better wages and benefits, Merrilees said.

Jack Isola, district manager at the Davis Street facility, said the workers would be welcomed back with "open arms."

"Davis Street is a world-class recycling facility operated by world-class people," Isola said in a statement. "We welcome back our employees with open arms and look forward to achieving the high diversion goals of the communities that we serve."

© Copyright 2014 by CBS San Francisco and Bay City News Service. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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