Editor’s note: This news release reflects the position of the staff of the Washington Utilities and Transportation Commission (UTC) and NOT the views of the three-member commission. It discusses a staff recommendation that the commissioners have not yet reviewed. Any positions taken or comments offered by the commission staff regarding this proceeding should be attributed clearly to staff members and NOT to the UTC.
State investigation reveals garbage hauler violated service conditions during strike
OLYMPIA, Wash. – State regulators today are proposing to fine Waste Management, Inc., for missed garbage, recycling and yard-waste collections during last year’s eight-day labor dispute.
In a complaint issued today, the Washington Utilities and Transportation Commission (UTC) staff is recommending the commission penalize Waste Management for violations of state law when the company failed to provide scheduled trash service to more than 135,000 customers in commission-regulated areas of King and Snohomish counties during a strike last summer by Teamster union drivers.
UTC staff investigators found Waste Management failed to deploy sufficient replacement drivers to maintain service in accordance with its service conditions, and disproportionately allocated its drivers to contract-city service areas, such as Seattle, to the disadvantage of its customers in commission-regulated unincorporated areas of the counties.
Based on data supplied by Waste Management, commission staff investigators estimated the utility missed 208,567 pickups during the strike, which, according to the staff, violates the company’s tariff filed with the state. The commission also received 136 consumer complaints from the company’s garbage customers whose waste was not collected during the strike. Commission staff was unable to calculate an exact total number of missed pickups during the strike because the company failed to supply the UTC with all necessary information during a staff investigation of company practices during the strike.
Under state law, the commission could assess Waste Management up to $1,000 for each violation if warranted by the circumstances surrounding the violations. Commission staff is recommending a penalty of $2.14 million.
The company has 20 calendar days to file an answer to the complaint. The three-member commission will then schedule a hearing. The commission is not bound by staff recommendations when making a final decision. The company is not allowed to pass any penalty amounts that may be assessed to customers through rates.
The strike, which involved Teamsters Local Union No. 117 recycling and yard-waste drivers with support from the Local Union No. 174 garbage drivers, began July 25 and ended Aug. 2, 2012.
The UTC regulates Waste Management of Washington Inc.’s solid waste, recycling and yard-waste collection service in unincorporated areas of Snohomish, Skagit and King counties. Cities that are not regulated by the commission include: Algona, Arlington, Auburn, Bothell, Burien, Burlington, Carnation, Concrete, Darrington, Duvall, Federal Way, Granite Falls, Issaquah, Kirkland, Maple Valley, Marysville, Mill Creek, Monroe, Mountlake Terrace, Redmond, Renton, Sammamish, Seattle, Sedro Woolley, and Stanwood.
The UTC regulates the rates and services of privately owned solid waste and recycling companies. Please visit www.utc.wa.gov/solidwaste
for more information.