SEATTLE (AP) _ With the picket lines gone, Waste Management garbage trucks rolled Thursday in the Seattle-Everett area, starting to recover from an eight-day Teamsters strike that affected more than 200,000 customers.
The garbage truck drivers had refused to cross picket lines set up by the union representing drivers of yard waste and recycling trucks.
A tentative agreement was announced Wednesday and the leadership of Local 117 recommended members approve the deal in a midmorning Thursday vote at the union hall in Tukwila.
Both sides said they were pleased with the agreement on a six-year contract but disclosed no details.
It likely means customers can expect the return of regular service to dump garbage, yard waste and recycling bins that have been drawing flies since a strike began July 25.
The company told residential and commercial customers to put out their bins on their regular collection days.
“It will take time to fully recover from this unfortunate situation. We appreciate the community’s patience during this time,” Waste Management spokeswoman Robin Freedman said.
Waste Management had provided limited service with out-of-state drivers and was planning to hire permanent replacements. The company faced fines of $1.25 million a day from the city of Seattle for garbage left more than a week. Waste Management has a contact worth $36 million a year to pick up waste in 60 percent of Seattle. The rest of the city is covered by another waste collection company.
City inspectors are checking bins Thursday, said Seattle Public Utilities spokesman Andy Ryan. It will take a few days to tally and a few more to determine how that money will be distributed back to customers, he said.
The city also tried to help residents by offering free drop-offs at its two waste transfer stations.
The settlement may have come just in time. Although trash bins were overflowing at some locations and especially a problem for restaurants, there was no indication of a health hazard, Ryan said.
The Washington Fish and Wildlife Department warned residents to keep garbage secure to avoid attracting raccoons or even bears in some areas.
“We haven’t had a tremendous report of raccoons, but I suspect they’re doing very well,” Ryan said.
Local 117 represents 150 yard waste-recycling truck drivers. Their old contract expired at the end of May and they were seeking a contract that closed a $9 an hour pay gap with garbage truck drivers represented by Local 174. Those 350 drivers refused to cross picket lines.
“We are pleased to have negotiated a contract that recognizes the professionalism of our members,” Local 117 Secretary Treasure Tracey Thompson said in a statement.
The strike began July 25 and initially affected 217,000 customers. It extended to Skagit County when the union set up a picket line Tuesday at a Waste Management yard in Burlington.
The union filed complaints with the National Labor Relations Board, accusing Waste Management of refusing to bargain in good faith.
The company said it was making a generous offer that would raise the annual salary by $10,000 to $68,000 in the last year of the contract.