Md. Trash Workers Strike Over 'Immigration Enforcement Threats'

Tuesday, Sep 10, 2013  |  Updated 5:45 PM EDT
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The trash in front on thousands of homes in Montgomery County may not be collected Tuesday due to a strike. Tony Tull spoke with workers about what they're demanding from Potomac Disposal.

The trash in front on thousands of homes in Montgomery County may not be collected Tuesday due to a strike. Tony Tull spoke with workers about what they're demanding from Potomac Disposal.

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Montgomery County sanitation workers will continue talks with their employer Tuesday after they walked off the job, claiming Latino employees were unfairly singled out after asking for a wage increase and affordable healthcare.

The employees of Potomac Disposal claimed they faced "inappropriate and intimidating immigration enforcement threats," a union rep told News4.

They say that last week, they asked for a wage increase and affordable healthcare. When the owner of the company refused, the workers staged a walkout Thursday.

The following day, Latino workers arrived at work to find I-9 forms attached to their time cards, they said, along with a demand that those workers re-verify their immigration statuses.

The workers said only Latino employees were targeted.

But the company denies the union's claims, saying Latino workers were not singled out. "They know they have to have their I-9s updated, and we are giving them time to update that information," said Rick Levine, the owner of Potomac Disposal.

Levine said late Tuesday that the workers had agreed to return to work. The union responded that the workers had agreed to return in order to preserve their bargaining stance and restart the discussion over the I-9s -- and that did not necessarily mean they would return to the job.

"The workers are furious over the I-9 forms. They felt it was a direct threat toward them, intimidation toward their efforts just to get a fair contract," said Steve Lanning, the Director of Organizing for LiUNA! Mid-Atlantic Regional Organizing Coalition.

The walkout could affect as many as 18,000 homes in parts of Potomac, Silver Spring and Bethesda, Md.

However, Levine said he had hired extra workers, and service was not affected. Company owners said earlier Tuesday they had 14 backup truck to cover trash and recycling collection until the striking workers returned.

Federal law requires employers to use I-9 forms to verify an employee's identity and right to work in the United States. Employees complete the form at the time of hiring.

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