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By The Skanner News | The Skanner News
Published: 13 September 2006

A federal mediator helped to negotiate a tentative settlement to end a strike against a major garbage hauler after union leaders threatened a much larger walkout Monday, a company spokesman said.
Picket lines came down Monday morning, garbage trucks were rolling again, and Dan Scott, secretary-treasurer of Teamsters Local 174, said 35 to 45 mechanics employed by Waste Management Inc. of Houston would vote on ratification at a meeting Tuesday night. Results of that vote were not available as of press time.
Union leaders said they would recommend approval, said Jerry Hardebeck, the company's director of public sector services.
"We would hope that it's ratified," Hardebeck said.
Details were not disclosed and Scott did not return a telephone call to The Associated Press by press time.
"Both parties have agreed not to comment on the details of the contract until the membership has had the opportunity to vote," Eric Rose, another Waste Management spokesperson, told KIRO Television.
The mechanics went on strike Friday against Waste Management, and truck drivers in the same union refused to cross picket lines at sites involving trash pickups for about 170,000 households in the suburbs east of Lake Washington and north of Seattle into Snohomish County as far north as Arlington.
About one-fifth of those customers, roughly 34,000, missed a pickup Friday and should put out all their accumulated garbage this coming Friday, Hardebeck said.
The company used supervisors to maintain regular pickups at businesses the company deems essential for health reasons, such as restaurants and nursing homes, and covered nonessential businesses over the weekend, he added. Hardebeck said he did not know the number of affected businesses.
The talks that began Sunday were the first since the walkout began and the first involving a federal mediator, who was "essential in reaching the agreement," Hardebeck said.
The mechanics have been without a contract since Dec. 31.
Hardebeck said earlier that the company's last offer before the strike would have boosted hourly pay to $26, a $2 increase, while also raising other pay and benefits.
A key issue was a company demand for mechanics to begin paying for medical benefits, as much as $285 a month for coverage of a worker's spouse and children.
Before the settlement, union leaders upset by the pace of the talks had threatened to extend the walkout on Monday to the northern part of the city and some of the suburbs to the south, potentially affecting 1 million customers.
Waste Management officials said they were prepared to bring substitute drivers from other parts of the state and from Oregon.
— The Associated Press

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