Recycling Workers Convention to Expose “Dirty Secrets” Behind East Bay Recycling Operations

Most of us don’t know what happens to our recycling after we take it to the curb each week.

On Saturday February 2nd, hundreds of recycling workers will gather in Oakland to expose a host of serious problems to an audience of elected officials and policy makers who oversee this supposedly “green” industry, including:

  • An alarming number of injuries to recycling workers: The dirty and dangerous job of sorting and recovering recycled materials in Alameda County is performed by a mostly immigrant and largely female workforce. The workers are exposed to a host of dangers including contaminated hypodermic syringes, animal carcasses and feces, heavy dust and a host of sharp objects that cause injuries. On June 19, 2012, a waste worker in another part of the Davis Street facility was crushed to death – caused by Waste Management’s failure to follow safety laws, according to Cal-OSHA that fined the company more than $50,000 and issued two “Serious” citations for ignoring the law. The company is refusing to pay the fines and is trying to appeal the citations.
  • Rat infestations: Recycling workers at Waste Management’s Davis Street facility were plagued with an infestation of rats that management ignored until workers took action.  The rodents carry a host of serious diseases, and employees were forced to work in close proximity to the rats, rat feces and urine. The problem was finally addressed – but only after workers organized themselves and protested the dangerous and unlawful exposures that were ignored by Waste Management officials.
  • Low pay that requires employees to work full-time for poverty-level wages:  East Bay recycling workers earn 40% less than the same jobs pay in San Francisco and San Jose.
  • Illegal retaliation against predominantly-immigrant workers: After workers at Waste Management prepared to protest unlawful labor practices by their employer, the company retaliated by subjecting some workers to an E-verify background check of immigrations status, resulting in several workers losing their jobs and generating a climate of fear and intimidation. Waste Management’s actions were prohibited by the union contract, which the company violated.  It’s also a violation of federal law for companies to retaliate against workers who organize together and take action to stand up for their rights, as happened in this case. 

Hundreds of recycling workers are continuing to organize, despite efforts by employers to threaten and intimidate them.  On Saturday, come here the stories of these workers and their efforts make their jobs safer, improve services and win fair pay for the dangerous and difficult jobs that they perform. This event will take place at the ILWU Local 6 hall at 99 Hegenberger Road, Oakland, CA 94621 on Saturday February 2nd, from 2-6 pm. For more information, send us an email.