Reno-Area Garbage Workers Ratify New Contract

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A nine-day strike by garbage workers in the Reno area ended after they ratified a new contract Saturday.

Employees were scheduled to return to work later Saturday after members of Teamsters Local 533 voted 137-41 to approve the three-year contract.

The union called the strike May 7 after negotiations broke down with Waste Management Inc. over pay and benefits. The two sides returned to the bargaining table on Wednesday.

About 350 company employees had been working without a contract since April 18. Of that, about 280 are union members.

"We're happy. We're thrilled to death," said Local 533 secretary-treasurer Lou Martino. "They (workers) didn't get everything they wanted, but it was sufficient for them to accept the contract. They're anxious to get back to work."

The contract gives workers a total $2.60 an hour increase over the next three years, a pension increase, a new 401 (k) retirement plan and higher holiday pay.

But employees failed in bids to get three weeks of vacation after five years, overtime pay after eight hours a day and a "no subcontracting" clause designed to provide job security.

"I think the contract is fair," company manager Greg Martinelli said. "It provides a nice wage increase to employees and allows us to do it without going to the ratepayers and having to raise garbage rates."

Even though the company called in replacement workers, garbage went uncollected in some areas as many as two or three days.

The company hopes to reduce the backlog over the weekend and resume normal service Monday, Martinelli said.

"We're happy that things turned out the way they did," he said. "We're anxious to get employees back to work and hopefully put any bad feelings behind us and just get back to servicing our customers."

A 1967 strike by garbage workers in the Reno area lasted 12 days.