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San Jose Stiffs Teamsters

Newby Island Landfill, where City of San Jose allowed contractor Republic Service to exploit workers. Photo: Jennifer Wadsworth

On Tuesday the San Jose City Council approved a sweetheart deal with Republic Services exempting the contractor from the city’s Livable Wage Policy, and letting Republic off the hook after years of underpaying subcontracted workers – up to $7/hour less than what the policy requires. The city has refused to assess any penalty for the violations, and even agreed to give Republic $2.1 million in taxpayer dollars to pay for wage increases to $17/hour, still $4 less the the Livable Wage. 

“The City of San Jose has abandoned its leadership role on this important issue, turned its back on these workers, and is sending a terrible message to other companies that they can get away with violating the Living Wage Ordinance through subcontracting and obstinence,” wrote Teamsters Joint Council No. 7 President Rome Aloise in a June 23 letter.

Recycling processing workers at Newby Island Landfill do difficult and dangerous work, but Republic allowed subcontractor Leadpoint Business Services to pay them as little as the city’s minimum wage. Republic also refused to bargain with the workers’ union, Teamster Local 350, as required by the landmark Browning-Ferris federal ruling. Republic is fighting the ruling in court.

“San Jose is lining up with forces to undermine the efforts of these workers, and all subcontracted workers nationwide,” wrote Aloise. “At stake in this case is the question of whether tens of thousands of San Jose workers will be able to earn enough to meet their most basic needs.”

An August 18 memo authored by City Council members Donald Rocha, Raul Peralez, and Sergio Jimenez suggested reforms to enforce its labor laws. The council will review an upcoming staff analysis of residential waste contractors who also pay illegally low wages in violation of the city’s Living Wage.

“As a City Council we must continually preserve our Living Wage Policy by emphatically opposing attempts to circumvent it…” states the memo, “created because it is beneficial to the health and welfare of all citizens of San Jose that workers are paid a wage which enables them to not live in poverty.”