Local Union to City: Hands Off Our Trash!

Labor unions of late have been fighting an uphill battle in public perception, attempting to justify the significance of unions for the middle class and American workers. This attempt has been futile. The labor movement has tried to team up with community organizers, environmentalists, and other left-leaning causes to call attention to itself and gain nationwide support. However, the actions of union officials consistently prove otherwise. The recent complaint of union officials in Seattle emphasizes why labor unions are not only detrimental to communities, while illustrating the hypocrisy of their coalitions.

Cleanscapes, a private trash-collection company, offered its services free of charge to the city of Seattle to clean the Westlake Park. The altruistic offer was met with firm opposition by local union officials of state workers. This should seem out of character for unions, considering the recent publicizing of coalitions with Rainbow/PUSH and the Blue-Green Alliance. These coalitions are supposed to highlight how unions help build stronger and cleaner communities.

Dmitri Iglitzin, attorney for Local 1239, Public Service and Industrial Employees union, said, “This is an effort by a commercial company to move in on a potential city contract.”

When did government contracts become specifically designated for unions?

The union in a letter to the city pointed out the notorious pattern of acts by Cleanscapes,

“The union points to a pattern of CleanScapes offering to donate to the city services such as snow removal and the deployment of speed-watch trailers, without public notice or bids.”

This is news. I did not know it was necessary to bid on a contract when you are offering a free service.

The president of Cleanscapes, Chris Martin, started his company because he was sick of his community being littered with trash and becoming a seedy area of town. Martin described it as, “Litter, cigarette butts and overflowing garbage cans marred Occidental Park. Dumpsters in alleys attracted rats and adults engaged in inappropriate behavior.”

Seattle has five different city and county agencies responsible for keeping the city clean of litter and graffiti, but clearly are unable to do the job. Given the budget crises of many states, how can a city turn down a free service to better the community? Shouldn’t unions be the firsts to line up and support the private company for the good work it is doing?

To sum up all that is wrong with unions is a quote from Ian Gordon, business agent for Local 1239, responding to the charitable acts of Cleanscapes: “A corporate entity shouldn’t be doing the work of city employees.”

I think the better question is, why are city employees who cannot keep the city clean doing the work of a corporate entity, who will do a right and for free?