Chula Vista City Council planned a special meeting Friday to enact an emergency declaration as trash accumulates throughout the city due to stalled contract negotiations between sanitation workers and their garbage collection company.
The meeting was postponed to Saturday at 6 p.m. because of technical difficulties.
It's been nearly a month since more than 260 sanitation workers with Teamsters Local 542 went on strike against Republic Services trash collection company over wages.
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The emergency declaration, which was ordered by City Manager Maria V. Kachadoorian on Jan. 12, implements certain actions that allow the city to address the trash crisis.
The order directs about 30 city staff members from different departments and some private contractors to collect trash in overflowing dumpsters in Chula Vista and some parts of San Diego. Collectors are focusing efforts on multi-family units and overflowing bins that are attracting pests, the city said. Then, efforts will concentrate on commercial locations.
"This effort does not include emptying individual trash carts or dumpsters as the City does not have the equipment to do that safely. Republic Services is responsible for that," the emergency declaration read. "While the City does not have the staff or equipment to provide this service long-term, this effort will help reduce the mounds of overflow trash that are unsightly, attract bugs and rodents, and affect the quality of life for residents."
Before Friday's meeting, Mayor Todd Gloria said trash pileup is threatening public health and safety, and gave Republic Services until Monday to meet the terms of their contract or face fines, suspension or even termination.
“With no resolution after weeks of negotiation between Republic Services and its striking workers, my office has given the company until Monday before escalating action to compel the trash hauler to meet their obligations under their franchise agreement. The situation as it stands is unacceptable and a public health and safety threat. I have supported and encouraged compromise. My next steps are fining the company, pursuing their performance bond and asking the City Council for authorization to seek an injunction to force compliance with terms of the agreement, which include weekly pickup and recycling of green and solid waste. Further options are suspension and termination of the franchise.”
One of the Chula Vista city staffers on trash collection duty is Sam Alzubaidi, a Chula Vista Park Ranger who is now an impromptu trash collector.
"When they say 'Let's get it done,' that's what we do," Alzubaidi told NBC 7. "Right now, we’re using the loader, we’re using the manpower, and we’re just getting stuff done."
Residents like Bernarda Grec said she "just feel(s) so thankful for them to be here."
Photos: Chula Vista Council to Hold Special Meeting on ‘Emergency' Due to Trash Collection Strike
Most of the 260 striking employees are drivers that earn around $24.60 per hour, according to a board member with Local 542. They're hoping to get closer to $31, which was the average hourly pay for all jobs in San Diego County in May 2020, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
The strikers are also asking Republic Services for improved working conditions and safer equipment.
To get there, Local 542 is trying to negotiate a $2 hourly raise with $1 increases each year until the current contract expires in 2025.
Richard Copeland with Republic Services said what they're offering the union, including benefits, overtime and allowance, is already on par with some police and paramedics in Chula Vista.
"They fall squarely within and above their essential worker colleagues. That’s on the current contract. We’ve been working a month to improve that situation," Copeland said.
“That contract is not a good one,” Chula Vista Mayor Mary Salas told NBC 7 Tuesday.
“I’ve seen the proposal that Republic’s been offering, and I don’t think that it’s enough,” Salas said. “It’s really ludicrous that Republic is saying that ‘They’re like family,’ and they want them to get back to work. Well, you know what? Stop treating them like poor stepchildren.”
Meanwhile, residents in Chula Vista are wondering why they're paying for a trash collection service that is not being fulfilled.
"I'm not going to pay for it," said resident Steve Monroe. "They owe us two or three weeks for not picking the trash up."
Chula Vista City Councilmember Jill Galvez said she's asked the city manager to look into it and requested from Republic Services that a month of credit is issued to businesses, families and others who are still paying for the service.
Republic Services said in a statement to NBC 7 that they're doing everything they can to help people affected by the labor dispute.
"Republic Services understands our customers’ concerns, and we are continuing to consider the issue of customer credits. We also continue to add relief crews to help support customers and collect accumulated waste."