Unity Disposal trash haulers say negotiations for better wages have stalled.
Workers for the waste service, which serves about 12,600 customers per day in Montgomery County, Maryland, alone, have been on strike since Friday. They claim they are not being paid fairly for their services.
"Right now, they're paying us about $10.50 per hour," said Damion West, who works as a trash hauler for Unity. "We can't support ourselves off these wages."
Some residents, like Linda Davis, of Wheaton, agree that the workers should be fairly compensated.
"I think trash haulers should get a decent wage myself," she said.
The strike comes at an inconvenient time for residents and workers. The week between Christmas and New Year's is one of the busiest for trash haulers and has the heaviest amount of trash at any time of the year.
Residents in Montgomery County are encouraged to call 311 for immediate help if their trash pickup is missed.
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"We have a staff of 12 people out in the field who are out there monitoring the service," said Robin Ennis of the Montgomery County Division of Solid Waste Services. "They resolve the issue literally within a matter of minutes in many cases."
Ennis says there has been a misunderstanding about where the temporary workers are coming from.
"Some of the strikers indicated that the replacement workers are day laborers hired from convenience store parking lots or bus drivers on school holiday," Ennis said. "Unity owns a number of sister trash companies, [and] it's my understanding they're bringing drivers and helpers in from their other companies."
Unity Disposal told News4 it has made a new proposal to the union and welcomes their employees back to full active duty and back to the bargaining table.
"Unity Disposal respects the rights of the employees to voice their concerns but wishes they would do so at the bargaining table," Unity emailed to News 4. "The Company has recently put several new proposals on the table despite earlier proposals that were virtually ignored and took the union over a month to respond. In light of the union's refusal to participate in collective negotiations, it appears to Unity that this strike is more about a show than about achieving an agreement for the employees.
"Unity continues to operate successfully despite the dogmatic approach of the union and its treatment of our actively working employees," the statement continues. "We remain in close contact with our county representatives and welcome our employees back to full active duty and to the bargaining table."
For now, the Montgomery County Division of Solid Waste Services is advising residents scheduled for Dec. 30 trash and recycling services to put their waste out by 7 a.m.
Residents can view service information and maps of the affected areas on the county's website.
In addition to serving more than 60,000 customers in Montgomery County weekly, Unity picks up trash for about 20,000 customers in Howard County.