By Michael Mignano, Senior Research Analyst, International Brotherhood of Teamsters
Municipalities across the US have outsourced waste collection to private companies with varying success. According to a guide published by In the Public Interest (ITPI), numerous problems can arise from poorly crafted contracts including, “disputes over pricing and billing…prolonged labor disruptions and uncollected garbage – financially costing the city and its residents.” A municipality’s waste contract is an opportunity for a community to express its values and protect its interests. As a report from the organization A New Economy for All notes, “when considering franchise contracts, cities can take into account a company’s track record on job quality and worker health and safety, ensuring these lucrative agreements go to responsible contractors that will strengthen the local economy.”
In order to ensure workforce stability and service reliability, ITPI lists several contract “must-haves” including: 1) sufficient and adequate staffing levels; 2) local labor requirements; 3) addressing strikes, slowdowns, and lockouts as “preventable circumstances” that do not qualify as force majeure events; 4) high fines or liquidated damages for nonperformance due to labor-related issues; and 5) prevailing or living wages. Furthermore, A New Economy for All adds that cities could include contract provisions regarding worker retention, whistleblower protection, strict limits on the use of temporary workers, and labor peace.
All of these contract “must-haves,” or provisions, are designed to protect workers’ rights, enhance the community, and boost the local economy by ensuring reliable service and providing good, family-supporting jobs. Including these standards in bid requirements and final contracts also promotes the companies that are good actors, rewarding them for worker and community friendly policies.
Cities without exclusive franchise systems lack the control and ability to promote these best practices. New York City’s commercial waste sector, for example, has dismal recycling rates, disproportionately burdens low-income communities and communities of color with waste processing facilities, and suffers from low wages and poor working conditions. Alleviating many of these issues is why New York City is working to establish a new commercial franchise zone system.