You are here

recycling workers

Refuse workers take strike action during COP26 climate talks

Workers at Curbside Recycling Win Raise, Paid Time Off

By Elise Brehob - Industrial Worker, September 22, 2021

For workers at the Curbside Recycling Program in Berkeley, California, the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic highlighted the need for better working conditions. The truck drivers, who have been required to work every day while many California residents sheltered at home, demanded and won both a wage increase and more paid time off. The Curbside Recycling Union is organized with the Industrial Workers of the World.

The Curbside Recycling Program is operated by the Ecology Center, a nonprofit organization, under contract with the City of Berkeley. The program’s recycling truck drivers began organizing in 1988 and won their first union contract the following year. More than 30 years later, the drivers remain unionized, winning greater wages and benefits, as well as maintaining control over their routes and accident review committees.

“The purpose of the accident review committee is to give the workers the ability to discuss and vote on accident responsibility,” explains Joe, a driver at the Curbside Recycling Program and member of the union. “For instance, if a recycling truck is sideswiped by an impatient motorist, the committee has the ability to find the driver of the truck blameless.”

Joe also recalls a half-day strike that the Curbside Recycling Union staged a few years ago, which involved every driver walking off the job.

 “There was one key demand,” says Joe. “That demand was that the workers have a say in route distribution and route assignments, which the company agreed to. … That was a key moment for the union to demonstrate union power.”

IndustriALL sets out union goals for decent work in the battery supply chain, organizing in Green Tech

By Elizabeth Perry - Work and Climate Change Report, November 20, 2020

IndustriALL Global Union represents workers along the entire battery supply chain, (except in China) through its international affiliates in mining, chemicals, energy, electronics, and the automotive sector. Canada’s Unifor is an affiliate. “Due diligence across the battery supply chain” (November 2020) describes that expanding and complex supply chain, from mining to processing to end-use products for batteries, and outlines the union’s aim to research and map it. IndustriALL’s aim is to “create a social dialogue scheme or platform with key stakeholders to achieve decent work for all throughout the supply chain. IndustriALL is the only global union who can coordinate unions around the world and contribute to the policy to achieve decent work around the battery supply chain. The international trade union movement becomes more important than ever. ” A separate post, “Developing a global trade union battery supply chain strategy” ( November 20) outlines further specifics about the union’s strategy and announces: “IndustriALL has applied for funding for a project starting in January 2021 on the battery supply chain across the industrial sectors. In a pilot project IndustriALL intends to collaborate with companies, NGOs and other associations to find out how such an approach can help to genuinely improve the situation workers along the entire battery supply chain.”

GreenTEch Manifesto for Mechanical Engineering

IndustriALL Global Union convened an online seminar on green technology in the mechanical engineering sector in early November 2020 – summarized here. The seminar was the occasion to launch a GreenTech Manifesto, which defines “Green technology” (GreenTech ) as “ any technology that promotes one or more of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals adopted by the UN summit in 2015, specifically clean water and sanitation, affordable and clean energy, green industry, innovation and infrastructure, responsible consumption and production and climate action.”

At a previous IndustriALL workshop on Mechanical Engineering and GreenTech in December 2018, the President of Austrian trade union PRO-GE and co-chair of the sector, said: “As mechanical engineers and trade unionists, technology is the most important contribution we can make to mitigating climate change. We need hydro, we need wind, we need solar, we need biomass. And we need strong unions to ensure that energy transition is just.”

The new Greentech Manifesto states: “IndustriALL Global Union and its affiliates need to be alert and present so that green jobs become good jobs with appropriate working and living conditions. To this end the participants at this IndustriALL Global Union GreenTech virtual workshop resolve to: § facilitate exchange between affected affiliates in the sector over new trends, especially focusing on GreenTech, digitization and related developments § organize training for trade union organizers and works councils to develop new methods, strategies and services to approach and recruit new employees at green workplaces § involve especially young workers and women in our work § intensify our efforts to increase trade union power in the affected sectors through organizing and recruiting.”

Solar Panel Recycling: Let’s Make It Happen

By James Gignac - Union of Concerned Scientists, October 30, 2020

This is one of four blogs in a series examining current challenges and opportunities for recycling of clean energy technologies. Please see the introductory post, as well as other entries on wind turbines and energy storage batteries. Special thanks to Jessica Garcia, UCS’s Summer 2020 Midwest Clean Energy Policy Fellow, for research support and co-authoring these posts.

Growth of solar panels and their lifespans

Solar energy is converted into electricity primarily with photovoltaic (PV) panels (there is another technology, called concentrating solar power, or CSP, but it is less commonly used and not addressed here). PV panels are comprised of individuals cells linked together, forming various shapes and sizes based on the needs of the system. The panels themselves are made with semiconductor materials—generally silicon, but sometimes various rare metals—and generally covered in glass.

The cost of PV panels has declined dramatically in recent years while their efficiency has gone up. These trends are continuing, leading to rapid growth of the solar industry globally. Solar panels on average last 25-30 years (and maybe even longer); thus, solar installations occurring today can be expected to remain productive until the middle of this century.

The reliability and longevity of new panels means that the volume requiring recycling or disposal is currently low, except for very early generations of PV panels and small numbers that may get broken during the installation process or damaged in storms.

However, options for recycling and disposal need to be addressed as PV production continues to ramp up. And while the larger recycling need may not come for another decade, infrastructure and policy should be put in place now to accommodate future needs.

Decent work in the management of electrical and electronic waste (e-waste)

By staff - International Labour Organization, April 2019

At its 329th Session (March 2017), the Governing Body of the International Labour Office decided that a Global Dialogue Forum on decent work in the management of electrical and electronic waste (e-waste) would be held in Geneva. During its 334th Session (October– November 2018), it decided that the date of the meeting would be 9–11 April 2019 and that all interested governments should be invited. Eight Employer and eight Worker participants would be appointed on the basis of nominations made by their respective groups in the Governing Body, and selected intergovernmental organizations and non-governmental organizations would be invited as observers.

The purpose of the Global Dialogue Forum is to discuss current and emerging issues and opportunities related to the promotion of decent work in the management of e-waste, with the aim of adopting points of consensus, including recommendations for future action by the International Labour Organization (ILO) and its Members. Taking place in the centennial year of the ILO, the Forum is also an opportunity to discuss more broadly the future of work in the circular economy.

Read the report (Link).

Recycling is a Feel Good Activity, But Not for Workers Hurt or Killed on the Job

By Brian Joseph - Fair Warning, April 12, 2016

Darkness had enveloped the Newell Recycling yard by the time Erik Hilario climbed into a front-end loader on a cold evening in January 2011. Just 19 years old, Hilario, an undocumented immigrant, had followed his father from Mexico to an industrial park in East Point, Ga., near Atlanta, where they worked as low-skilled laborers amid jagged piles of scrap metal bound for the smelter.

Hilario drove to a paved section of the nine-acre yard known as the defueling or car-processing area. Here, according to witnesses in a court case, gasoline was removed from junked cars through a crude process employing a 30-foot crane and a long spike welded atop a metal trough. A claw attached to the crane would pick up cars and smash them, gas-tank first, onto the spike, spilling gasoline into the trough. The crane then would swing the cars across the pavement and drop them onto a pile, dripping gas along the way. Hilario was using the loader – which Newell later would say he was not trained or authorized to operate – to scrape up bits of metal left behind.

Hilario was slowly pushing the scraps into a pile when an intense fire suddenly engulfed him. A spark had ignited gasoline on the ground. “Help me!” he screamed, co-workers later testified in the case.

A green industry

Recycling may be good for the environment, but working conditions in the industry can be woeful. Recycling encompasses a wide range of businesses, from tiny drop-off centers operating out of strip malls and parking lots, to sprawling scrapyards and cavernous sorting plants, where cardboard, plastic and metal destined for places like China and Turkey are separated. The recycling industry also includes collection services, composting plants and e-waste and oil recovery centers. Some of these jobs rank among the most dangerous in America. Others offer meager pay, and minimum wage violations are widespread. Experts say much of the work is carried out by immigrants or temporary workers who are unaware of their rights or are poorly trained.

“These are not good jobs,” said Jackie Cornejo, former director of Don’t Waste LA, a campaign to improve the working conditions and pay for workers in the Los Angeles municipal waste and recycling industries. “People only hear about the feel-good aspects of recycling and zero waste, and rarely do they hear about the other side,” she said.

Despite its virtuous image as one of the original green industries, recycling is dirty, labor-intensive work. It involves loud, heavy machinery, including semis, forklifts, conveyor belts, loaders, cranes, shredders and grinders, all of which pose a serious threat to life and limb, especially if they’re not properly serviced or lack basic safety features, which is often the case at recycling firms. Unlike manufacturing, recycling cannot be completely systematized because it depends on an ever-changing flow of recyclable materials that come in all manner of shapes and sizes. This can require recycling workers to personally handle most of the scrap passing through a facility, potentially exposing them to carcinogens, explosives or toxics, to say nothing of sharp objects.

Exposures are especially problematic at e-scrap and battery recycling facilities, where the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health has found workers with elevated levels of lead in their blood or on their skin.

In one case in Ohio, the high lead levels in the blood of a young brother and sister were traced to the work performed by their father, a former e-scrap recycling worker who crushed cathode ray tubes. The father didn’t wear any protective gear at work and often came home with dust in his hair. High lead levels also were found in the children of workers at a battery recycling plant in Puerto Rico.

While major corporations like Waste Management are in the recycling business, many of the companies that do this work are small, which can mean they lack the knowledge and resources to establish effective safety procedures. Recycling workers, by virtue of their immigration status or status as temps, often hesitate to speak up when they see hazards on the job or are victimized by the outright illegal behavior of their supervisors.

One of the largest sectors in recycling, scrapyards, has long had high fatality and injury rates. In 2014, for example, that sector’s fatality rate was 20.8 deaths per every full-time 100,000 workers, more than nine times higher than manufacturing workers overall. That same year, garbage and recycling collectors had the fifth-highest fatality rate among the dozens of occupations analyzed by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

No one tracks how many workers die across all recycling sectors. But at scrapyards and sorting plants, at least 313 recycling workers have been killed on the job from 2003 to 2014, according to figures compiled by the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

A FairWarning analysis of Occupational Safety and Health Administration records found that inspections conducted from 2005 to 2014 resulted with scrapyards and sorting facilities receiving about 80 percent more citations than the average inspected worksite.

Industry leaders and safety consultants say it’s no secret that recycling firms have to do a better job of following basic safety procedures, like installing guarding on conveyor belts or properly shutting off machines before maintenance. The Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries, a trade association, recently announced that it is partnering with OSHA to try to reduce injury and fatality rates.

OSHA has limited resources, especially given the sheer number of worksites it oversees. The AFL-CIO calculates that with current staffing levels federal OSHA can only inspect worksites once, on average, every 140 years.

“Systematically, across the country, (OSHA officials) haven’t given the industry the attention it’s due,” said Eric Frumin, the health and safety coordinator for Change to Win, a partnership of four national unions. Although OSHA says that five of its 10 regions have special enforcement programs covering sectors of the recycling industry, safety advocates say it isn’t enough. They are lobbying the agency to create a national program aimed at sorting plants, where recyclables like metal, paper and plastic are separated. “It’s a low end of the economy,” Frumin said. “We’ve shipped all the factory jobs to China, so what is the modern-day equivalent of dirty, dangerous factory jobs? Warehouses and recycling plants.”

Public Letter To SF Mayor Ed Lee, Sheriff Mirkarimi, and SF Sups On Hanging Nooses

By Darryl Washington - United Public Workers for Action, September 18, 2015

Disclaimer: The views expressed here are not the official position of the IWW (or even the IWW’s EUC) and do not necessarily represent the views of anyone but the author’s.

Greetings Mayor Ed Lee, Sheriff Mirkarimi, and San Francisco Supervisors. I pray this email finds you and your families in good health.

My name is Daryle Washington and I'm sending this email due to frustration at the lack of concern from City Government after I and other employees suffered a noose being placed on a Black workers belongings, and the events that followed from a corporation that San Francisco contracts to pick up garbage, compost, and recycling to name a few of the services offered by Recology.

I brought these issues to many in City Government through email over a year ago and only two supervisors responded. I am thankful that one responded and that was Malia Cohen. I find it troubling that an investigation into the allegations of a noose being placed at a business in San Francisco, which has a major contract with San Francisco didn't happen. I also find it troubling that as I have spoken to some that hold elected offices in San Francisco that they have heard about the incidents but have no full knowledge of what happened. I further find it troubling that I was not contacted or a reply sent based on my email over a year ago. 

What I am asking for is that San Francisco Government launch an investigation into racism, harassment, retaliation, terrorist threats, bullying, and corruption by Recology. Have them open up the books and let's see if they have been hiding mistreatment of Black workers. I'm am optimistic that Black Lives Matter enough to City Government to look into what I and other employees went through in 2013. Anything less than publicly condemning all noose incidents in this wonderful city is an injustice to all Black workers and residents of this great city. A zero tolerance policy of any and all companies and or corporations that are contracted or subcontracted by San Francisco.

There may be action taken in the near future at Recology after the scheduled September 21st rally at Recology, which may include a press conference on the steps of City Hall demanding justice from San Francisco City Government and officials for Black and Brown workers at Recology and all City businesses, especially the ones contracted and or subcontracted by the city of San Francisco, funded by tax payers.

Lastly let us never forget that "A injustice to one is an injustice to us all" and I would like to add that standing by doing nothing makes us all just as guilty as the person or persons acting unjust.

Below I have a few links that will help paint a clear picture of what I have been through, but I am not alone, I'm the one who decided to stand up and no longer take the injustices from Recology.

EcoUnionist News #59

Compiled by x344543 - IWW Environmental Unionism Caucus, August 4, 2015

Disclaimer: The views expressed here are not the official position of the IWW (or even the IWW’s EUC) and do not necessarily represent the views of anyone but the author’s.

The following news items feature issues, discussions, campaigns, or information potentially relevant to green unionists:

Lead Stories:

Ongoing Mobilizations:

Bread and Roses:

Stop Retaliation & Hanging Noose Incidents: Defend Recology IBT 350 Member Daryl Washington

By Steve Zeltser - Labor Video Project, July 27, 2015

Disclaimer: The views expressed here are not the official position of the IWW (or even the IWW’s EUC) and do not necessarily represent the views of anyone but the author’s.

San Francisco Recology company has retaliated against IBT 350 member Daryl Washington who reported on a "San Francisco Recology company has retaliated against IBT 350 member Daryl Washington who reported on a "hanging noose" incident at the company in 2013.

The company discriminated against him and sought to buy his silence with a bribe. Speakers pointed out that workplace bullying is a growing issue in the workplace including many other locations.

This rally/press conference which took place on July 27, 2015 was endorsed by United Public Workers For Action, Stop Workplace Bullying Group, and Transport Workers Solidarity Committee.

Additional video - http://youtu.be/g5PBHHR2m38
Production of Labor Video Project

SF Rally/Press Conference Against Racist Hanging Noose At SF Recology

Disclaimer: The views expressed here are not the official position of the IWW (or even the IWW’s EUC) and do not necessarily represent the views of anyone but the author’s.

Enough Is Enough! - Stop Racist Noose Incidents & Workplace Bullying At SF Recology

Monday July 27, 2015 12:00 Noon
Recology Company 501 Tunnel Avenue, SF

Daryle Washington, an IBT 350 member and worker at the Recology Company in San Francisco  has faced a hanging noose and other racist attacks at the Recology Company. For speaking up against these assaults Washington faced retaliation and workplace  bullying  when he blew the whistle on these racist incidents against him and other workers at the facility.
We call for Recology to immediately take action to stop these incidents and end the retaliation against Daryle Washington.

Other workers and trade unionists will be speaking out against the continuing hanging noose incidents and also the epidemic of workplace bullying.

Sponsored by

For information contact info [at] upwa.info | (415)282-1908

Background Information

Endorsed by Michelle Smith, Bully Free Workplace, Derrick Boutte, James Charas, Harold Fong, Brenda Barros, Daz Lamparas, Carrie Clark

Pages

The Fine Print I:

Disclaimer: The views expressed on this site are not the official position of the IWW (or even the IWW’s EUC) unless otherwise indicated and do not necessarily represent the views of anyone but the author’s, nor should it be assumed that any of these authors automatically support the IWW or endorse any of its positions.

Further: the inclusion of a link on our site (other than the link to the main IWW site) does not imply endorsement by or an alliance with the IWW. These sites have been chosen by our members due to their perceived relevance to the IWW EUC and are included here for informational purposes only. If you have any suggestions or comments on any of the links included (or not included) above, please contact us.

The Fine Print II:

Fair Use Notice: The material on this site is provided for educational and informational purposes. It may contain copyrighted material the use of which has not always been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. It is being made available in an effort to advance the understanding of scientific, environmental, economic, social justice and human rights issues etc.

It is believed that this constitutes a 'fair use' of any such copyrighted material as provided for in section 107 of the US Copyright Law. In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, the material on this site is distributed without profit to those who have an interest in using the included information for research and educational purposes. If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond 'fair use', you must obtain permission from the copyright owner. The information on this site does not constitute legal or technical advice.