Sanitation workers march in Beverly Hills, demand fair pay from waste company – Daily News

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More than 100 workers, labor leaders and community supporters marched through Beverly Hills on Friday to lobby for fair treatment of Athens Environmental Services sanitation employees.

The workers, represented by the International Brotherhood of Teamsters Local 396, allege they are underpaid and fear their healthcare benefits are being eroded. They have failed to reach a labor agreement with the company after two years of negotiations and claim Athens — a division of City of Industry-based Athens Services — is “denying its workers dignity, respect and a voice on the job.”

Wielding signs with the message, “Athens Services Union Contract Now!” the group converged in front of Beverly Hills City Hall with a large pile of stuffed trash bags.

“They have gone to the Beverly Hills City Council on multiple occasions to voice their concerns and the company has threatened the workers for speaking out,” union spokesman Adan Alvarez said. “That is not appropriate behavior.”

Workers, community members and labor leaders marched through Beverly Hills on Friday in support of fair treatment for Athens Environmental Services employees. (Photo courtesy of Teamsters Local 396)

The Beverly Hills workers, which number about 20, service large apartment complexes, businesses and construction sites throughout the city.

Representatives from Athens could not be reached for comment Friday, despite repeated phone calls and voicemail messages.

Athens Environmental Services has come under scrutiny by the National Labor Relations Board‘s Office of the General Counsel, which is investigating the company on charges of unfair labor practices. The charges allege the company has disciplined and fired workers for supporting the union, and that Athens has withdrawn a contract proposal that would have provided workers and their families with full family medical insurance.

Some of the workers have full coverage for themselves and their families, Alvarez said, but others can’t afford to include their families.

“It’s really expensive to add family members on,” he said. “What we want is for everyone to have affordable family healthcare.”

Athens workers are underpaid compared with sanitation workers at other waste-hauling companies, Alvarez said.

Athens “helpers,” who ride along with drivers and help by pulling large waste containers out of commercial enclosures, earn around $13 an hour, he said, while truck drivers average $18 to $20 an hour. That falls well short of wage levels at competing waste haulers like Waste Manag

ement or Republic Services, which pay helpers around $18 an hour and drivers up to $25 an hour, Alvarez said.

“Without a contract, they are the mercy of the company,” he said. “They can change benefits at their behest. When they go to cities to get contracts, those contracts will guarantee what workers are paid for a long time.”

Athens Services operates several facilities in Southern California, including hauling yards in Pacoima, Torrance, Irwindale and the City of Industry. Founded in 1957, the company serves more than 250,000 customers in more than 50 communities and employs 1,300-plus workers. The company was an early adopter of materials recovery, building one of the first facilities of that kind in the country in the 1990s in the City of Industry.

The company’s services include solid waste collection, recycling, organics diversion, street and parking lot sweeping and construction and demolition recovery.

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