URBANA — About 20 members of Teamsters Local 26 stayed away from work at Allied Waste Services on Thursday, honoring a picket established there by an Ohio-based Teamsters local.
The work stoppage complicated collections by Allied, which has about 3,000 commercial customers and 7,000 residential customers in the Champaign-Urbana area.
Tim Donovan, secretary-treasurer of Local 26, said 18 to 22 members chose to honor the picket erected by Youngstown, Ohio-based Local 377.
The Youngstown local — which represents workers at Republic Services' Carbon Limestone landfill near Youngstown — went on strike against the company and put up signs at Republic locations in Urbana and Evansville, Ind., as well.
Allied Waste is part of Phoenix-based Republic Services, the nation's second-largest provider of solid waste collection, transfer, recycling and disposal services.
Donovan said he didn't know how long the work stoppage might last and didn't know the specifics of unfair labor practices that the Youngstown local has claimed.
But he said the work stoppage in Urbana was not related to ongoing negotiations between Local 26 and Republic/Allied over the union contract that expired last June.
The next negotiating session, Donovan said, is scheduled for April 9.
Marty Grant, the general manager for Allied Waste Services in Urbana, did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the work stoppage and how it would affect collections.
Earlier this year, Grant told The News-Gazette that 26 of Allied's 33 employees in this market were represented by Local 26. Most of them are route drivers, and some are mechanics that work on Allied's trucks.
Grant said the main sticking point in negotiations for a new contract was the Teamsters' pension plan.
"We just can't come to terms on the pension," Grant said at that time, saying the company was concerned the union pension plan might not be viable in the future.
"Our proposal is to switch it to a 401(k) to try to resolve it," he said.
"The union doesn't want to give in on the pension. The company obviously wants to change the pension to 401(k) because of the liabilities of the pension plan," Grant said. "We don't believe the members fully understand the condition of the pension plan."
In that same interview, Grant told The News-Gazette that Local 26 members had "basically been working without a contract" since last June.
"There's always a threat there could be a strike, and the company is prepared to bring in replacement drivers until things get worked out," he said.
A release from the Teamsters union said the Youngstown local was protesting "Republic illegally changing working conditions without bargaining and the company's refusal to provide pertinent information related to bargaining."
According to the Teamsters release, a planned natural gas fracking project on the site of Republic's landfill in Youngstown has raised concerns about air pollution generated from the industrial process of oil and gas production.
The Teamsters release also said Republic Services "intentionally" left Evansville, Ind., without reliable trash service for six weeks last spring, "locking out its workers without pay just to teach them a lesson."
In that instance, the Indiana workers took their pickets to other cities, and fellow Republic workers refused to cross pickets in five cities.