Sanitation workers strike, ‘refuse’ to pick up town garbage
A strike by union employees of WIN Waste, the Town of North Salem’s garbage and recycling provider, left town residents without sanitation services early this week. Residents were not initially told that service was disrupted due to a strike.
On Monday, WIN Waste alerted customers that “due to unforeseen circumstances” the company would be unable to pick up garbage and recycling this week. The notice indicated that crews would return starting September 5, a gap in service that would have left many residents without garbage collection for 10 days or more.
North Salem Town Supervisor Warren Lucas shared on the town’s Facebook page early Monday that the “drivers handling garbage pickup today are not the normal drivers due to vacation.” Timothy Wagner, pastor of the Croton Falls Community Church, responded to the post, saying that the workers were on strike and that he had witnessed the regular drivers picketing temporary workers in front of the church.
Town Supervisor Warren Lucas told the North Salem Post that he was not aware early Monday that there was a strike. “They mentioned they had substitute drivers. I just assumed it was due to vacation,” he wrote in an email. He went on to say that the company had been in contact with the town “since noon or so on Monday every couple of hours letting us know what was going on.”
On Tuesday morning, Lucas posted an update to the town’s Facebook page acknowledging the strike and some of the details surrounding it, as shared by WIN management. A deal that had been reached between the company and the union had fallen through; both sides were back at the bargaining table. Meanwhile, temporary workers were attempting, with varying success, to fill in for the crews that have been servicing the town for many years. Lucas estimated that about 60% of town residents had their garbage picked up between Monday and Tuesday.
The strike among WIN union members mirrors a broader surge in worker strikes nationwide. As of last month, more than 650,000 American workers had either threatened to go on strike this summer or had already done so, according to Bloomberg Law.
Residents of both North Salem and Somers, which WIN also services, took to Facebook to share their frustrations that their garbage was either picked up a day late or not picked up at all.
“The WIN leadership is actively working to secure internal resources to support routes and coverage to service our customers in the interim,” WIN management shared in a note. “We may have delayed collection for part of the town this week, and may have to catch up on Wednesday, more to come on that.”
By Wednesday, Lucas reported that the strike was over and that garbage would be picked up by Friday.
North Salem's contract with WIN Waste goes through August 2024. Lucas dismissed any suggestions that the Town would consider canceling the contract.
“We like the folks who have been picking up in Town,” he said. “ They have been here for MANY years, some probably over 20 years. Since it is a municipal contract they already get union wages and union benefits.” Union rates are a requirement of New York State municipal contracts. “I am sure they probably didn’t want to strike but did not want to cross the strike line,” Lucas said.
Town residents are not required to use WIN for their refuse pickup, but Lucas noted that residents pay for the service through their property taxes. “If they want to pay someone again they can, but they would still be taxed.”
Lucas said that the Town had previously considered creating its own sanitation department, but ultimately decided that to do so would not be financially viable in the long run. He cited costs for salaries, benefits and pensions as well as for the purchase and maintenance of equipment and of property to house a transfer station. Lucas referenced a spreadsheet that he said he had created several years ago that broke down the costs associated with creating such a department.
“Surprisingly it came out to about the $775K we are paying them this year. They are able to depreciate the trucks, we are not. This does not factor in interest rates on the trucks.”