Chicagoans Sue Haulers

A GROUP OF RESIDENTS in the Chicago area are suing Waste Management of Illinois, Houston; Groot Recycling and Waste, Elk Grove Village, Ill.; Onyx Waste Services, Milwaukee; Homewood Disposal Service, East Hazel Crest, Ill.; and Allied Waste Services (including BFI), Scottsdale, Ariz., over October 2003's 10-day garbage strike, according to news sources. The strike, which involved 3,300 drivers and garage personnel employed by private waste companies, affected nearly 8 million businesses and residents across six Chicago area counties.

In the class action lawsuit filed by attorneys Robert Shelist and Mark Schwartz in Cook County Circuit Court, residents say they should receive credits, or monetary damages between $4 to $100, for garbage pickups they paid for but never received during the strike.

However, Bill Plunkett, spokesman for the Chicago Area Refuse Haulers (CARH), says customers did eventually receive their pickups. Moreover, the waste companies had to work overtime and incurred the cost of managing the garbage that had piled up.

“The strike was truly an unprecedented event and time,” he says. “All of the companies involved in the association worked very hard to negotiate a reasonable contract [to avoid] higher prices and eventually higher costs to consumers.” City sanitation employees also were forced to work additional shifts to compensate for the lack of commercial service. Initially, the Teamsters had requested a 45 percent wage and benefits increase, but after a federal mediator was called in, workers wound up with a 30.5 percent increase.

“The strike was not of the [CARH] companies' making. However, when it was resolved, all of the companies mobilized immediately to resume collection and serve their customers,” Plunkett says. “In doing so, they incurred substantial costs for overtime, and they paid all of the costs for disposal as if there had been no strike. Under the circumstances, they served the public very well.”