Trash haulers unloading waste at the Otay Landfill on Dec. 10 , 2021. / Photo by Adriana Heldiz

This trash hauling strike has gone too long and everyone should ask why?

The simplistic view is that you have Republic Services, the city’s waste hauling contractor and its employees, represented by Teamsters Local 542,  in a dispute since Dec. 17, because workers want better pay and benefits. They are at the negotiating table trying to work things out. Simple enough? Not so simple!

The missing element here is that the interrupted service at play is an essential public service residents depend on for their wellbeing and overall public health. But right now, homes and businesses are struggling to get rid of their trash and it’s just piling up. The city, which  is responsible for the overall wellbeing of the community isn’t doing anything. The public interest must be represented and in Chula Vista it has not been represented.

Since the strike started there has been little communication from city hall. It wasn’t until Saturday that the mayor made a statement. And now the City Council plans to discuss the strike Tuesday.

About a month ago, the same drama with Republic Services and the Teamsters played out in Huntington Beach. There, the City Council declared a local emergency. This act authorized city staff to issue permits to allow private hauling. It laid out the new temporary rules for co-mingling of refuge and allowed the execution of an alternative service plan, amongst other things. The city met with Republic Services and issued a notice to the company that stated “it was failing to meet its contractual obligations.”

In contrast with Chula Vista, the city of Huntington Beach and it’s elected representatives took bold action. The Chula Vista City Council should just follow the template if you can’t think of anything new to compel performance.

So why haven’t officials in Chula Vista acted?  One theory is that things are just too cozy for Republic Services at City Hall.  In January 2015, Steve Miesen, then District Director of Republic Services was appointed Councilman in Chula Vista. The legacy of this act may be what’s playing out now. The deep connections between Republic and the City need to be examined.

Trash hauling contracts are highly regulated, complex, detailed and potentially litigious animals. Matters need to be dealt with delicately and fairly, but the public interest needs to be in the mix and represented.

Rudy Ramirez is a candidate for Mayor of Chula Vista. He is a former City Councilmember and small business owner. Rudy is a lifelong resident of Chula...

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