Credit: Steve Hull

A trash hauling strike in southern Montgomery and in Howard counties entered its sixth day on Wednesday with no signs that it would end soon.

Affected communities are: Bethesda, Chevy Chase, Kensington, Gaithersburg, Germantown, Silver Spring and Wheaton. A complete list is available by clicking here. However, in most of those communities, trash pickup has occurred on schedule, according to residents and a county spokeswoman.

The dispute, between Unity Disposal & Recycling and its unionized workers is about wages and benefits..Unity serves about 46,000 households per week in Montgomery County. The county pays about $21 million to Unity and two other companies – Ecology Services and Potomac Disposal – to collect trash, recycling, yard waste, bulk trash and scrap metal. The workers for these companies are not county employees.

Unity employees voted to form a union with Laborers’ Union Local 657 nine months ago but efforts to negotiate a first contract with about 120 workers have stalled. About half of those workers have gone on strike, said Michael Blain, spokesman for the Laborers’ Union, which represents Unity’s employees.

At issue in the strike against Unity are wages and benefits. Trash haulers who ride on the back of trucks earn about $85 per day, while drivers are paid about $120, said Blain.

Workers are looking for pay increases, less expensive health insurance and retirement benefits, which he said they currently lack.

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Unity has been using replacement workers, Blain said, and he questioned whether they had been sufficiently trained and made aware of the county’s safety regulations.

London Bryson, a spokeswoman for Laurel-based Unity, declined to respond to questions but issued a written statement:

“Unity Disposal respects the rights of the employees to voice their concerns, but wishes they would do so at the bargaining table,” the statement. “In light of the Union’s refusal to participate in collective negotiations, it appears to Unity that this strike is more about a show than about achieving an agreement for the employees. “

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Blain said employees had gone on strike partly because Unity’s most recent offer would, in some cases, reduce workers’ wages.

The office of Montgomery County Executive Ike Leggett has not commented on the strike other than to say that collections are not affected and to point residents to the website that the county has set up to provide information about trash pickup.

In October 2013, workers at Unity and Potomac Disposal went on strike for two weeks. Leggett stepped into that dispute to try to broker an agreement.

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