Kiera Manion-Fischer and Steve Fogarty
A lot of Medina neighborhoods should begin looking cleaner and smelling better this week as garbage pickup gets back to normal after the end of a weeklong strike by Republic Services workers.
All Allied Waste drivers are expected to be “back on their trucks and on their routes come Monday,” Martin Jay, business representative for Teamsters Local 20 said late Saturday afternoon.
“I’m happy to say we’re back to work.”
The local represents nearly 200 workers at Republic Waste’s Lorain County operations based in Carlisle Township.
Some union workers began returning to the job Saturday morning, Jay said.
“Some of our guys are back on the trucks, and the company already had its blue crew scheduled to work today,” Jay said.
The ‘blue crew’ is comprised of non-union workers who have been brought into the area from outside Ohio to drive refuse trucks during the strike, Jay said.
“Any of our guys who wanted to go in today or Sunday could,” Jay said Saturday. “We had a good number who stepped up to volunteer,” Jay said. “The company wasn’t forcing employees to come back on the weekend.”
Republic serves most of Medina County, except for the cities of Medina and Wadsworth and the village of Lodi.
Joan Bivin, 68, who lives on Indian Creek Drive in Litchfield Township, said her trash pickup day is Thursday, and she couldn’t get through to Republic Services last week to find out if she was supposed to leave her trash out or take it in.
She said trash went uncollected in her neighborhood.
“All my neighbors had their trash out there, dogs have been getting into it,” she said.
The company did answer her in an email that not all Medina County residents would see their trash picked up this weekend.
Rod Knight, 75, a Liverpool Township resident, had the same problem. “My biggest concern was just the uncertainty,” he said. “There’s no word coming out.”
Knight said trash was piling up where he lived as well. Knight, who is involved in the Valley City Chamber of Commerce, as well as the historical society, lives on Station Road, about a quarter-mile from the Lorain County line, he said.
His garbage had been scheduled to be picked up Friday, and he said he left it out until Sunday.
Garbage collection was interrupted last week when local Teamsters struck last week in support of Teamsters Local 377 in the Youngstown area whose members have been without a contract with Republic Waste since Oct. 31.
The Mahoning County local struck in March over alleged unfair labor practices and a proposal to change the way in which pensions are handled.
Local 20 workers staged a one-day sympathy strike April 1 in support of Local 377.
The end of the strike followed what Jay termed a good-faith effort by Local 20 members to return to work as Republic committed to continue talks to reach an agreement.
“We anticipate the company and union will be able to work through issues in the next couple of months,” Jay said.
He declined to discuss specifics of the negotiations.
“It’s been a long week,” Dave Kidder, Republic Waste area marketing director, said Saturday night.
Kidder confirmed that workers began returning Saturday.
“Some guys showed up today, while other guys are coming in tomorrow (Sunday)” to resume residential and commercial-industrial trash pickup, Kidder said.
Asked which cities would see a resumption of service first, Kidder said “where the piles are highest. We’re trying to put water on the fire all over the place. We have three counties to take care of.”
According to a recorded voicemail at the company’s offices, trash pickup will resume on the regularly scheduled days this week.
The strike grew to include hundreds of drivers, mechanics and other Teamster members who refused to cross picket lines in areas including Medina and western Cuyahoga counties.
Reduced manpower led to delayed pickup schedules in communities across the county, which in turn led to garbage collection this weekend in an effort to get caught up, according to Kidder.
In Lorain, Mayor Chase Ritenauer and other city officials joined city workers again Saturday who rode three trash trucks borrowed from Elyria to supplement Lorain’s front-end loaders and four dump trucks that focused on the city’s east side, where trash had not been picked up since Monday night, according to Ritenauer.
“We were pretty unhappy about that,” Ritenauer said. “We hauled a lot of trash.”
A week of wild weather that saw 80-degree temperatures one day, strong wind gusts another and a brief blizzard Saturday morning only aggravated the situation, Ritenauer said.
“The wind was the worst,” Ritenauer said. “It blew trash around and made a real mess.”
The borrowed Elyria trucks were expected to be back out today collecting more trash as well as a half-dozen or more Republic trucks, Ritenauer said.
All communities that contract with Republic should be back on schedule by the end of this week, Jay said.