Workers at the Sims Municipal Recycling MRF in the Sunset Park neighborhood of Brooklyn, N.Y., voted to approve their first union contract as members of Teamsters Local 210.
The vote caps an organizing drive by workers at the recycling facility, which processes all of the city’s residential recycling. Under the contract, workers will receive immediate raises and a union healthcare plan with premiums fully paid by the company.
Teamsters and Sims had signed a unionization agreement in March.
“We worked so hard to get to this point, but it was worth it,” José Lopez, a Sims worker and union leader, said in a statement. “This contract ensures that the workers who recycle New York City’s waste will be treated with respect and will be able to take care of their families. We are proving that immigrants can win justice through solidarity, even in Trump’s America.”
“This victory would not have been possible without the support of our friends in the labor and environmental justice movements, the Sunset Park community, and our elected officials,” George Miranda, Secretary-Treasurer of Teamsters Local 210, said in a statement. “This is a win that will transform the lives of the immigrant workers at Sims, but it is part of a larger fight to transform New York City’s sanitation system. We are going to win that fight too, for all our workers and communities.”
Under the agreement, the company will cover all healthcare costs. Previously, workers had paid $0.61 to $2.64 per hour in healthcare premiums.
The new contract also guarantees annual raises, a retirement plan, increased vacation time and a higher education program. Workers will be protected from discrimination based on race, ethnicity, country or origin, gender status and union activity. They will have representation during disciplinary procedures and will be able to grieve violations of the contract.
"I celebrate the workers at Sunset Park’s Sims Materials Recovery Facility who have just voted overwhelmingly in favor of a new union labor contract," New York City Council Member Carlos Menchaca said in a statement. "I have advocated for an equitable labor agreement at Sims because corporations fulfilling large City contracts must honor workers’ right to organize. I also point to this successful negotiation as an example of how workers everywhere can create a safer, and more just workplace. This contract is a testament to the hard work of Sims workers and management who reached across the table and came to fair terms. This is a victory for Teamsters Local 16, for Sims workers and for New York City."
Workers informed company management in December 2016 that a majority had signed union authorization cards with Teamsters Local 210, but the company resisted bargaining a contract. Workers threatened a strike that would have shut down the city’s recycling system, and traveled to the City Council to speak out against workplace abuses.
In March, Teamsters Local 210 and Sims reached an agreement for an expedited election, in which the company remained neutral and workers voted to join the union.