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Washington trash service workers on strike address frustrations over garbage collection delay

Republic Services drivers in the Seattle area went on a "work stoppage" to support drivers striking in San Diego.

KENT, Wash. — What's happening in San Diego, is becoming a problem in parts of the Seattle area. Trash bins chock-full with garbage and recyclables are seen, street after street, in cities like Seattle, Renton, Kent, and Bellevue.

Workers for waste disposal company Republic Services have been on strike in San Diego for weeks. This week, Republic Services drivers serving Seattle, Bellevue, Lynwood and Kent went on a "work stoppage" to support union workers in San Diego.

"We've been working hard throughout the pandemic; we never stopped working," said Rafael Mejia, who is a relief driver in San Diego and is in Seattle to join the strike extension this week.

Mejia said he understands the frustrations among residents who are impacted in Washington.

"The first thing I want to tell them is we want to apologize for everything we're doing," Mejia told KING 5.

"We don't want to come here and make a mess. that's the last thing we want to do, so all we're asking is for support from our brothers and sisters," Mejia said.

He and other union workers are asking for a new contract that includes PPE accommodations against COVID, plus better wages and benefits among other factors.

"All we're asking for is a fair contract," Mejia said.

A spokesperson for Republic Services told KING 5 in a statement Wednesday, the work stoppage is temporary in Seattle area locations.

"This is related to a labor issue in California that has nothing to do with any Washington employees. We are taking the steps necessary to minimize service disruptions, and we thank our customers for their patience and understanding as we work to resolve this temporary issue," the statement said.

The Mayor of Kent, meanwhile, is working with Republic Services for solutions to the trash buildup as the labor dispute continues

"It's not just a one-day work stoppage, or two-day. We're really looking at customers who have not had service for several weeks," Ralph said.

The labor pause comes amid already-existing delays due to winter weather conditions during the holidays.

"Everyone coming from the holidays, people working from home, all of those things increase the need for recycling, yard waste and trash pick up so people are really feeling it," Ralph said.

Ralph said her office has asked Republic Services to offer another trash drop-off event at accesso ShoWare Center as an option for people to get rid of their excess trash. An actual date on when this might be has not been released as of Thursday night.

Ralph is also asking Republic Services to credit customers for any missed trash collection.

"We really think it's important that customers not have to pay for a service that they didn't receive," Ralph said.

Automated calls to impacted customers say they should leave out double the amount of trash for the next scheduled pick-up date.

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