Many working in the sanitation industry at Republic Services – one of the biggest sanitation companies in the United States – are still protesting as new union contract discussions with employees are underway in nearly a dozen cities around the country.
The biggest individual shareholder of Republic Services is Microsoft creator and multi-billionaire, Bill Gates. Gates’ investment company Cascade Holdings controls close to 34 percent of Republic Services’ stocks, which brings in more than $100 million each year in dividends. A lot of those who are involved in the strikes are directing their attention at Gates.
Last year, Republic Services generated almost $3 billion in profit and made a saving of nearly $200 million thanks to Trump’s tax cut bill which was implemented at the end of 2017. According to the company, last year it remitted $1.2 billion to its shareholders via stock buybacks and dividends.
“I haven’t had a raise since 2004,” says Demetrius Tart, who has been a Republic Services residential driver in Georgia for almost 15 years. “I’ve been making the same amount of money since day one, no pay increase, while the company is continuing to give dividends to Bill Gates, the executives of the company, stockholders, and leaving the front line guys hung out to dry.”
Insufficient income is one of the primary concerns of the debate. According to one worker in Massachusetts who has also been with Republic Services for around 15 years, Bernie Egan-Mullen, many employees receive about 40 percent less than market average. In one of the riskiest jobs in the United States, some employees are only getting paid $18 per hour.
“Workers see the inequality with the Trump tax cuts. The cuts came and they saw all these stock buybacks. Yet Republic Services were making very little investment in equipment and safety and no investment at all in the workers and their compensation, and the healthcare coverage is mediocre at best,” expressed Vice President of Teamsters Local 728 and Assistant Director of the Solid Waste division, Chuck Stiles. “Collective action is all they can do. There is no talking to management, there are no open door policies, the door will get shut in your face, and workers are fed up with it.”
Teamsters accounts for 7,000 workers in the United States, out of the 36,000 individuals employed at Republic Services.
Strikes are ongoing as Republic Services refuses to change their position on the initial terms.