Thousands of homes in Montgomery County had their trash and recycling pick-up disrupted Monday because about 50 of the 57 workers for Potomac Disposal went out on strike, and the walkout will continue Tuesday, a labor spokesperson told Patch.
Potomac Disposal is a trash collection business operating in Montgomery County, and the workers were protesting what they say is an immigration enforcement threat, Nicole Duarte, communications director for the Laborers' International Union of North America, Mid-Atlantic Regional Organizing Coalition, said.
The strike on Monday disrupted trash and recycling pick-up for
about 12,000 homes in Silver Spring, Wheaton, Bethesda, Chevy Chase and
Rockville. On Tuesday, the strike will affect about 18,000 homes in the River
Road area of Bethesda and Potomac, Duarte said.
The workers have been negotiating for health insurance and what they call a fair living wage. Currently, Potomac Disposal does not offer trash collection workers a health insurance plan. Trash collection truck drivers make between $120 and $130 a day (before taxes), while those who load trash into the trucks make between $60 and $70 a day, Duarte said.
Trash collection takes a heavy physical toll on workers’ bodies. Last Friday—the day after workers signed a letter asking for health care—Potomac Disposal management attached new I-9 (employment eligibility verification) forms to employees’ time cards, asking employees—most of whom are Hispanic—to verify their immigration status, Duarte said.
“The company should have done that when they were hired. The documents should be on file, so the question is, ‘Why now?’ The timing seems to be designed to threaten the workers,” Duarte said.
Potomac Disposal declined comment.
"The striking workers demand that Potomac Disposal managers rescind their immigration enforcement threat and return to the negotiating table in good faith," a union news release said.
The workers “are proud to serve Montgomery County, and want to go back to work,” Duarte said. The “immigration enforcement threat made them feel horrible. … [They’re] waiting for a response … [and are] committed to standing up for themselves in the meantime.”
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