Agreement reached in Gaithersburg’s Potomac Disposal strike -- Gazette.Net


Workers at Gaithersburg’s Potomac Disposal were set to return to work Wednesday after reaching an agreement with the company’s management to end a strike that lasted 10 days.

Potomac owner Lee Levine said the company was “thrilled” to have the issue resolved.

The strike was hard on the workers and the company, but both sides worked hard and were able to come to a mutual agreement, Levine said.

Nicole Duarte, a spokeswoman for Laborers International Union of North America Mid-Atlantic Regional Organizing Coalition, called Tuesday’s agreement “a very fair compromise.” The company agreed to pay raises for workers, one paid holiday and sick and vacation days for workers, but weren’t able to agree on a plan to provide affordable health insurance, according to a release from the union.

In the release, LiUNA Vice President and Regional Manager Dennis Martire said the agreement was a good example of what can happen when workers stand together to reach a fair compromise with an employer.

But he said he was disappointed that Montgomery County Executive Isiah Leggett wouldn’t support a plan to offer the workers affordable health insurance.

County spokesman Patrick Lacefield said the county had been very supportive, holding meetings with Potomac and auditing the company to ensure it pays workers a living wage required by the county.

“We have never been asked, by either side, to give more money,” Lacefield said.

If the county adds more money to the contract to provide for health care, it could face issues with companies who had bid for the contract, claiming the county had changed the rules in the middle of the game, Lacefield said.

He noted that the seven-year contract had only been bid two years ago.

The county has hundreds of contractors, many of whom would probably like money added to their contracts, Lacefield said.

“If you do for one, are you going to have to do for all?” he asked.

Workers at Laurel’s Unity Disposal and Recycling, which also provided trash service for the county, also were scheduled to report to work Wednesday, 11 days after dozens were terminated after protesting the firing of an employee who had helped advocate for a union, Duarte said.

The majority of Unity workers have expressed an interest in being part of a union, but management hasn’t responded to their request, she said.

The company has expressed a willingness to allow the workers back, and they have decided to return to work while continuing to work toward union representation, Duarte said.