Since I’m a former teacher you would probably think that I have a pretty strong opinion about unions, either for or against. The truth is, my position on teachers unions is one of hopeless confusion. I have seen teachers unions do students and educators irreparable harm, but I have also witnessed unions be the heroic champions of children and adults. If you sat down with me for a cup of coffee one day, I could yammer on for hours about unions and public schools, and at the end of our conversation you would probably be just as confused as I.
But right now there is a union struggle going on in my neighborhood that seems really black and white. My brother-in-law, a recycling truck driver, is on strike against Waste Management because the recycling and yard waste drivers want to be paid the same amount as the garbage collectors. (Please see Garbage haulers join walkout.)
The PR people from Waste Management keep making it appear that my brother-in-law and his coworkers are making $98,000 a year, but really that isn’t true. The number is closer to $60K ish with the rest of the sum going into benefits and retirement.
Uncle Mike is one of the hardest working members of our entire extended family. He gets up every morning at 3AM when the rest of Puget Sound is asleep, and heads off into (almost) any type of weather, no matter how miserable. His job is really dangerous and psychically demanding too. There have been many gray days when my children and I have looked out the window at icy roads and said a prayer for Uncle Mike’s safety.
Now, Uncle Mike and his coworkers are on strike, asking for pay that puts them closer to the $9 and hour increase that the garbage haulers receive. The garbage truck drivers have joined them in solidarity.
The one thing I do not understand is how in a state that prides itself on the environment and natural wonders, there could have been a discrepancy between the pay a recycling truck driver and a garbage truck driver received for so long.
It seems pretty clear to me who the heroes are in this battle. It’s the guys who always take a moment to wave back at the little kids staring out their living room windows, excited when the “trash truck” comes each week. Three-year-olds don’t care what type of waste is being picked up. They just know that they are watching brave men, driving giant trucks, and doing a darn fine job.