Keep your cool

You’ve probably already seen them, the big green garbage containers lined up along the streets like hopeful hookers. On the one hand, it appears that the strike by the garbage collectors could end fairly shortly, and Teamsters Local 533’s and Waste Management’s disagreements about pay, job security, health insurance and vacation benefits aren’t beyond negotiation. On the other, though, unions don’t go on strike when negotiations are on the verge of success.

The public is in a tough spot when there’s a strike, particularly a strike like this that impacts the entire population. There can be no doubt that there are two sides to every strike, and while it’s easy to sympathize with striking workers (a union is about as close to pure democracy as it gets these days), it’s also important to understand that management has to negotiate the best deal it can.

Bottom line: As long as both sides negotiate in earnest, a middle ground will be reached, and the public’s garbage will eventually make it to a landfill, and recyclables will get reprocessed. However, it’s a rare strike that doesn’t eventually get overshadowed by dirty tactics.

But, the fact is, this strike doesn’t only affect striking workers and management. If you’ll look down that road you’re driving down on the way home, you’ll see that wind-blown trash is already beginning to accumulate in the gutters. In some areas, animals have gotten into plastic bags and strewn refuse on the street. In others, where the wind has blown over trash cans, glass has been broken and spread around.

It’s pretty easy to see that if the strike goes for longer than a few days, these isolated spots will begin to accumulate. If loose trash is allowed to amass, there will be environmental repercussions long after the strike is over. That’s a situation that even striking workers would regret. So here’s what you do: Pick it up. Pick up that trash and put it in the nearest waste can. Yes, in some ways, your efforts will diminish the pressure that will be brought upon management to negotiate with the garbage workers—and maybe even delay settlement—but rest assured, those full trash cans and growing numbers of trash bags will be enough incentive to settle the dispute.

Also, as of Tuesday, recyclables were not being picked up by the union-busting workers brought in by Waste Management from out of town. Take your glass, plastics and newspapers into a place out of the wind.

In the end, interested but disconnected parties can only sit back and wait. Some will meet scabs with picket signs, others with open arms. The most effective behavior, though, would be to call Waste Management Inc., and the Teamsters Local 533 and ask both organizations to negotiate in good faith.