February 18, 2015
By Marc Bussanich
New York, NY—The Teamsters Joint Council 16, along with environmental and community-based groups, rallied at City Hall last week to provide support for Councilmember Antonio Reynoso’s legislation that would equalize garbage disposal among different communities throughout the city. But the Laborers say the legislation, Intro. 495, is a job killer.
As last week’s presser unfolded, streams of Laborers from Local 108 held up placards with a strikethrough the number “495,” showing their displeasure for the bill. In the accompanying video, we interviewed Mike Hellstrom, Local 108’s business manager, to find out why the union opposes Intro. 495.
“We currently represent about 300 people in the industry working in the transfer stations throughout the five boroughs of New York City. We see Intro. 495 as a job killer,” said Hellstrom.
One of the objectives for the proponents of the legislation is to provide relief for three communities—North Brooklyn, the South Bronx and Southeast Queens—from receiving the bulk of the city’s garbage via truck before being shipped out for disposal. Hellstrom said that the Laborers don’t oppose that objective, but don’t like the idea that the bill would reduce their headcount.
“We don’t disagree with the idea that people should have the ability to live in good, clean and sustainable communities. But any legislation that is proposed in the city of New York that would kill one good union job, we have to stand up and defend our members’ interests,” Hellstrom said.
He noted that the development of more marine transfer stations to transport the city’s waste to its final destination is one way to reduce the burden on the aforementioned communities, although the reaction to the plan to place a marine transfer terminal at 91st Street in Manhattan shows its fraught with controversy.
“The creation of [more] marine transfer stations would alleviate 6,000 tons per day from residential trash that is currently going to privately-run transfer stations around the city. Once that comes online, I think in the industry as a whole both the public and private sectors can look at how trash flows through the city and come up with a more comprehensive way of dealing with a problem that has been around for 25 years, since the closure of the Fresh Kills landfill.”
The Laborers are a little bit angry that the Teamsters are saying that they are responsible for hauling New York City’s trash, but according to Hellstrom, both the Laborers and Teamsters were expected to meet on Tuesday afternoon to hash out their differences.
“The good part is that we both have mature leaderships. We are very hopeful that in the coming moments that we will meet with our counterparts in the Teamsters and talk honestly about our [respective] roles in the industry. I’m hopeful that once we acknowledge [those] roles and one side isn’t trying to undo the hard work of the other side, we can come together and move forward together the way labor should move forward together to ensure that our members and the communities our members live in are being protected,” said Hellstrom.