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North O.C. trash strike intensifies

In week two, workers reject a mediator's plea to return. Replacements make headway.

October 31, 2006|Dave McKibben | Times Staff Writer

A trash strike affecting northern Orange County entered its second week as workers rejected a federal mediator's plea to return to their jobs. Taormina Industries, meanwhile, said an influx of 200 nonunion replacement workers has allowed the company to return trash collection to almost normal schedules.

The firm serves Anaheim, Brea, Fullerton, Garden Grove, Placentia, Yorba Linda, Villa Park and Chino Hills.

Company officials said that in addition to the replacement workers -- most from out of state -- about 30 Taormina employees have crossed picket lines and that some 15 managers and supervisors are also filling in as trash collectors.

On Sunday, mediator Juan Carlos Gonzalez called for striking Teamsters to return to work Monday and begin a 30-day cooling-off period.

Some 300 truck drivers, mechanics, welders and others walked out Oct. 23 after 20 days of contract negotiations collapsed. Union members last went on strike in 2001, when their previous contract expired. The company said its offer of a 25% compensation increase over five years is similar to the deal offered to other Teamster waste collection workers in Orange County.

"The deal is never going to get any better than it was," said Will Flower, a Taormina spokesman. "Unfortunately, these employees are not showing any indication they want to resolve the issues."

The workers, who earn roughly $16 an hour, have also pressed for more affordable medical insurance and better working conditions.

Union officials could not be reached for comment Monday, but in an earlier response, a union spokesman said: "They promised us five years ago that it would get better. It hasn't."

About 160 workers have been picketing the company's Anaheim facility daily. Although some employees have crossed picket lines, there have been no reports of violence.

Flower said the company has made trash pickups at hospitals, hotels and restaurants a priority in the weeklong strike. He said the hardest-hit residences have been apartment complexes.

"We're focusing now on apartments where waste has overflowed the bin," Flower said. "It's taking us 20 to 30 minutes at some of these places to shovel everything into the container."

Municipalities have allowed Taormina Industries replacement workers to start collecting trash an hour earlier than normal, at 5 a.m., as the company tries to get back to its regular schedule. Flower said the 200 replacement workers have been hired from sister companies throughout the United States.

Anaheim officials said the strike has had a limited effect on its residents.

"We've received some calls from residents, but Taormina is managing the situation as best they can," said city spokesman John Nicoletti. "They realize it's in the best interest of everyone from a health and safety standpoint to get the trash collected as quickly as possible."

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dave.mckibben@latimes.com

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