With rubbish piling up in the streets because of a week-long strike at Republic Services, Lorain Mayor Chase Ritenauer borrowed three garbage trucks from Elyria and, along with other city workers, began throwing trash Friday.
“We’ve got trash sitting out across the city, and it’s a public health issue,” Ritenauer said after several hours on the back of a garbage truck. “We’ve got to get it picked up.”
Since the strike began Monday, when striking Republic workers from the Youngstown area extended their picket line to Republic’s Carlisle Township facility, trash collection has stalled out across Lorain, Medina and western Cuyahoga counties.
By Friday evening, the three garbage trucks were picking up as much trash as a truck can hold — anywhere between 16 tons and 18 tons — throughout the west side of Lorain.
Martin Jay, business representative and trustee for Teamsters Local 20, which represents Republic workers in Lorain County, said his fellow workers are aware of the issues as well. He said on Friday after learning about the health concerns in Lorain, several union members volunteered to staff the trucks Ritenauer had borrowed from Elyria.
“We’re not going to take pay, we’re not working for Republic Services,” Jay said. “We want to help our community.”
An anonymous Republic worker said he and his co-workers were out Friday night, volunteering their time, in an effort to save Lorain.
“We are doing it for the Teamsters Local 20, we want to save the cities and we don’t want to lose our jobs and (business) contracts,” the man said.
As one garbage truck made its way through Lorain, a few residents watched their trash being hauled away.
Lorain resident Dick Wohlever said he understands the strike, but that this has gone on for far too long.
“For the one time (on April 1), I was cool with it; but now, the wind is blowing and animals are getting into the garbage. There is crap everywhere,” Wohlever said Friday night soon after his trash was picked up.
Republic essentially missed collecting trash on Monday and Tuesday until out-of-state workers could be brought in to run the routes normally staffed by the striking workers. But those workers are unfamiliar with the area and the trucks which hoist the carts most communities now use.
“We’re still behind and we’re trying to get caught up,” Dave Kidder, Republic’s area marketing manager, said Friday.
Kidder said Republic only has about 60 percent of the manpower normally needed to service the area.
The delay has led to annoyance and frustration from the company’s customers.
“We’re full,” said Carlisle Township resident Mark Radosvich, whose trash is normally collected on Mondays and still wasn’t picked up Friday afternoon. “We’re on two full weeks of trash over here.”
Wendy Wolfe, owner of Wolfey’s Bistro and Pub in Elyria, said she normally has three trash pickups each week and another truck comes to collect her recycling. She said she may have had some trash collected on Monday, but for the most part the garbage is still piling up.
“We’re improvising. We’re putting garbage everywhere,” she said.
Kidder said Republic is very aware that people aren’t happy with the situation and that the company intends to take steps to compensate customers for the problems this week, although the details of that compensation have yet to be worked out.
Avon Mayor Jim Smith said his city also continues to suffer from uncollected trash and hired Cooper Disposal to provide for large trash bins that are set up at City Hall, the Utility Building at Jaycox and Detroit roads, Northgate Park and Veterans Park.
He said Republic told him that trucks would be making the rounds in Avon today, but something had to be done to alleviate the accumulating garbage until the trucks got around.
“After awhile that stuff starts to stink,” he said.
Kidder said he doesn’t know when the strike will end, but that Republic will collect trash over the weekend in an effort to get caught up. The company hasn’t been picking up recycling or yard waste.
Jay said the strike will continue into today, but he’s wasn’t certain how long it will last beyond that. He said the union and company are in talks to resolve the issues that spurred the strike in Youngstown that has spread out across Ohio and into other states.
Meanwhile in Lorain, Ritenauer said the borrowed trucks will be rolling again this morning to collect as much trash as possible while the trucks are available.
Elyria Safety Service Director Mary Siwierka said the call for the trucks came in around 9 a.m. Friday from Lorain Safety Service Director Robert Fowler. After working out the logistics of who would drive the trucks to Lorain, how long they would be used and who would be responsible for any damage, they were on their way north by 3:30 p.m. — after Elyria’s trash was collected.
Siwierka said the three trucks — two rear-loading garbage trucks and a large dump truck suitable for bulk items — are due back in Elyria by 7 a.m. Monday so local collection is not disturbed.
“This is all apart of the sentiment that we have to be each other’s neighbor,” she said. “We have mutual aid agreements for police and fire. There is no reason why we can’t have mutual aid on something like this.”
Exactly what the long-term impact of the strike will be remains a question mark. Ritenauer noted that Lorain’s contract with Republic is up at the end of the year and there are other companies that can do the work.
Staff reporter Lisa Roberson contributed to this story.
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