The labor dispute between Waste Management—the colossal national company that covers about half of Seattle’s waste pick-up—and its workers is continuing apace, while a similar confrontation between Allied Waste and its workers seems to be nearing a conclusion. Two events yesterday crystallized the divergent nature of these labor conflicts. Below you'll find the Allied wrap-up, and the Waste Management update will follow a little later.

For those who haven’t been keeping up (for a note on why I haven’t been on top of this, see the bottom of this post), here is the basic outline. (The Seattle Times has had the best—and only —print/Web coverage of the dispute.) At the end of March, contracts covering hundreds of garbage haulers in both King and Snohomish counties came to an end, with the worker’s union, Teamster Local 174 still at the bargaining table with two companies, Allied Waste and Waste Management. In response the workers voted to authorize a strike. As I’ve explained before, an authorization vote doesn’t guarantee that a strike will take place, it just gives the union time to prepare and lets management know that the union isn’t messing around. A second vote would be needed to actually move forward with a strike.

Since then the playing field has shifted. Allied Waste, which services around 100,000 private residences and 8,000 commercial outlets in King County, reached an agreement with the Teamsters soon after the strike authorization vote. Instead of pursuing immediate militant action against Waste Management, where negotiations remain stalled, the Teamsters decided to focus its energies on the Allied contract, which the union negotiators recommended their members accept. And accept they did, with 92 percent of the members ratifying the Allied agreement in a vote yesterday morning at 8 AM. But don't expect this happy ending to compel a quick and healthy conclusion to the Waste Management dispute. In that case, the company has been actively flirting with a lock-out (an aggressive tactic commonly used to pressure employees into accepting the latest management offer) and preparing to hire scab drivers. The union meanwhile, has filed at least seven unfair labor practice charges against Waste Management, and has just held a well-attended event to gin-up support and prepare members and community members for a possible garbage strike which would effect half of Seattle. Meanwhile, Waste Management workers have continued working, but without a contract.

To ensure this post doesn’t get ungainly, I’ll be updating with the Waste Management dispute a little later in the day. But I’d like to wrap up with a few words of explanation on my tardy coverage of these disputes. I’ve had to cut back my reportage for The Stranger recently, which is why I haven’t covered this story at all up until now. Other employment commitments had to come first. However, it is rapidly becoming evident that the Waste Management dispute isn’t going away—and I’ll do my best to play catch up and get ahead of future developments.