Hundreds of Waste Management employees at cities throughout Alameda County went on strike Friday morning to protest what they claim is a violation of federal labor laws and abuse of employee rights.
The strike, held at Waste Management facilities in Oakland, San Leandro and Altamont, began at about 3 a.m. and included landfill, customer service and recycling workers, and lasted for just five hours.
Workers decided to strike because they said the company violated federal law by threatening and intimidating employees, implementing workplace policies without bargaining with the International Longshore and Warehouse Union and mistreating immigrant workers, according to union spokesman Craig Merrilees.
Merrilees said that the immigrant workers made a strong point to the company that they would not be bullied. Workers filed formal charges against Waste Management with the National Labor Relations Board on Wednesday, he said.
At 8 a.m., the 200-plus workers on strike went back to work, Merrilees said.
Residential waste and recycling pickup service in Alameda County will continue as scheduled and any interrupted service will be completed on Saturday, Waste Management spokesman David Tucker said.
Merrilees said he believes the strike was an overall success.
"Any time a group of workers stand united to make a point to a powerful company, it is a sign that democracy is alive and well in America," he said. "No company should be above the law."
The strike was not about negotiations in a collective bargaining agreement, Merrilees said. It was about the workers telling the company they won't tolerate what they consider threats, firings and intimidation anymore, he said.
In 2012, Tucker said an internal audit discovered four employees without proper documentation for employment. They were asked to provide documentation and, after about six months, three employees did not provide documentation and were terminated, he said.
"No one is being targeted. No one is being singled out. It's the guidance that we have, it's employment law," Tucker said. "To make a case this is a widespread epidemic is unfounded."
Waste Management and the union's Local 6 have been working on a new contract with the aid of a federal mediator, according to Tucker. The two sides last met on Monday.