Workers at NYC’s Largest Recycling Plant Win First Teamsters Contract
Workers at Sims Municipal Recycling Sort and Process All Residential Recycling in NYC
Contract Brings Premium-Free Union Healthcare
Sims Municipal Recycling workers in Sunset Park voted to approve their first union contract as members of Teamsters Local 210 today. The vote caps an organizing drive by workers at the recycling facility, which processes all of the city’s residential recycling. Under the contract, workers will receive immediate raises and a union healthcare plan with premiums fully paid by the company.
“We worked so hard to get to this point, but it was worth it,” said José Lopez, a Sims worker and union leader. “This contract ensures that the workers who recycle New York City’s waste will be treated with respect and will be able to take care of their families. We are proving that immigrants can win justice through solidarity, even in Trump’s America.”
“This victory would not have been possible without the support of our friends in the labor and environmental justice movements, the Sunset Park community, and our elected officials,” said George Miranda, Secretary-Treasurer of Teamsters Local 210. “This is a win that will transform the lives of the immigrant workers at Sims, but it is part of a larger fight to transform New York City’s sanitation system. We are going to win that fight too, for all our workers and communities.”
Workers had been motivated to organize a union because of disrespect at work and expensive healthcare. Under the agreement, the company will cover all healthcare costs. Previously, workers had paid $0.61-$2.64 per hour in healthcare premiums.
The new contract also guarantees annual raises, a retirement plan, increased vacation time, and a higher education program. Workers will be protected from discrimination based on race, ethnicity, country or origin, gender status, and union activity. They will have representation during disciplinary procedures and will be able to grieve violations of the contract.
“I celebrate the workers at Sunset Park’s Sims Materials Recovery Facility who have just voted overwhelmingly in favor of a new union labor contract,” said Council Member Carlos Menchaca, whose district includes the Sims facility. “I have advocated for an equitable labor agreement at Sims because corporations fulfilling large City contracts must honor workers’ right to organize. I also point to this successful negotiation as an example of how workers everywhere can create a safer, and more just workplace. This contract is a testament to the hard work of Sims workers and management who reached across the table and came to fair terms. This is a victory for Teamsters Local 210, for Sims workers and for New York City.”
“Congratulations to the Sims workers. This is a major victory for immigrant workers and their families, as well as for the advancement of workers rights,” said City Council Sanitation Committee Chair Antonio Reynoso. “It’s a big win for a more sustainable sanitation system, and I am proud to have supported them in this fight.”
Sims workers endured a hard-fought campaign for a union at the facility, which processes all of the residential recycling collected by the New York City Department of Sanitation. Workers informed company management in December 2016 that a majority had signed union authorization cards with Teamsters Local 210, but the company refused to bargain a contract. Workers threatened a strike that would have shut down the city’s recycling system, and traveled to the City Council to speak out against workplace abuses.
In March, Teamsters Local 210 and Sims reached an agreement for an expedited election, in which the company remained neutral and workers voted to join the union.
“We are mothers and fathers. We are immigrants,” said Juan Pineda, a Sims worker and union leader. “Being part of a union means that we have power and we have rights. Despite what is happening in Washington, immigrants in New York are standing up for ourselves and defending our families. I encourage all my immigrant brothers and sisters to join a union and get what you deserve.”
The Teamsters and its many New York City locals represent thousands of sanitation workers at the New York City Department of Sanitation, private carting companies, and at waste and recycling facilities. The union and its allies in the Transform Don’t Trash NYC coalition are working to raise standards throughout New York’s sanitation industry, both for workers and the communities they operate in.
“This is a big win not just for workers in the sanitation industry, but for our entire city. While the Trump administration actively endangers the lives of immigrants and people of color, we are setting a model here in New York City for how to empower immigrant workers and workers of color who protect our environment. We’re thrilled to be involved in this successful effort to bring together labor, community, and environmental justice organizations to fight climate change and advance economic fairness,” said Maritza Silva-Farrell, Executive Director of ALIGN, a founding member of the Transform Don’t Trash NYC campaign.
“New York Lawyers for the Public Interest congratulates the Sims workers, who fought hard for their rights at work and won. The union contract at Sims shows that high labor standards are indeed possible in the waste industry, and that they benefit workers, companies and the city as a whole,” said Rachel Spector, Director of Environmental Justice at New York Lawyers for the Public Interest.
“Economic justice and environmental protection must go hand in hand as New York City marches down the road as a leader in sustainability and equity. Today’s vote is a symbol of things heading in the right direction and we congratulate Teamsters Local 210 and the leadership at Sims Municipal Recycling on this occasion,” said Eric A. Goldstein, NYC Environment Director at the Natural Resources Defense Council.