Republic Services, the company that runs Newby Island landfill, owes its workers nearly $2.6 million in back pay, according to San Jose’s city attorneys.
The amount makes up the discrepancy between what Republic employees were earning—San Jose’s $10 minimum hourly wage—and what they should have earned under a local policy that requires companies doing business with the city to pay what’s called a living wage. The living wage during the time in question ranged from $15.98 to $17.03 an hour. That means each of the non-unionized 193 employees identified by the city should get a check to the tune of $13,396 for time worked since 2011.
But the second-largest solid waste recycling company in the world has been dragging its feet. Republic contested the city’s notice of violation in December and asked to confer with the Public Works director, a meeting that has yet to be scheduled. If the landfill operators fail to cooperate, the city may take the matter to court.
“Should Republic fail to comply within the time required by the public works director, the city reserves all rights to take appropriate enforcement action,” Nina Grayson, head of the city’s Office of Equality Assurance, told San Jose Inside.
Republic spokesman Russ Knocke dismissed the city’s claims of a violation.
“We believe we are in full compliance with our service agreement with the city and with city policies,” he said. “Our working relationship with all of the parties involved in the management of materials coming into the Newby Island facility has and will continue to be productive and mutually beneficial.”
Beneficial for all but the underpaid employees, who work without benefits in difficult conditions for half of what sorters earn at comparable companies, say reps from Teamsters Local 350, a local sanitation workers union.
"This company ought to be ashamed of itself," John Brouchard, of Local 350, wrote for a local labor blog, "skirting the law [and] flaunting it in the face of the 10th largest city in America."