Winton says trash hauling bid process is rubbish

The mayoral candidate showed up to a press conference on the back of a garbage truck

Cam Winton tosses a bag into the back of a garbage truck near Gold Medal Park on June 9 Credit: Nick Halter

Mayoral candidate Cam Winton used an alternative form of transportation to arrive at a press conference Tuesday. He rode in on the back of a garbage truck, donning a neon work vest over his shirt and tie.

The third in a series of creative press conferences, Winton used the garbage truck as a backdrop while he criticized city leadership for not opening up the Minneapolis garbage contract to non-union haulers. He also wants the city to consider contracting all garbage hauling. Right now city workers do half the hauling.

“The city should put the entire thing up for bid,” Winton said. “That’s the only way we can make sure that city residents get the best possible deal.”

The city will be negotiating a new garbage contract over the next several months that is likely to last five years. The current deal is set to expire on Jan. 31, 2014.

Winton urged the city to get rid of a labor peace agreement that rewards the contract to union haulers in exchange for a promise that Teamsters haulers won’t go on strike. The Teamsters Local 120 sent the city a news article detailing how a garbage strike in Seattle caused stinky trash buildups on city streets.

“Because the current City Council and many of my opponents are part of this insider game of scratching each others’ backs, they seem to have no problem prioritizing this special interest over the interest of the broad array of city residents who may be paying too much for having their garbage taken away each month,” Winton said.

Under the city’s current trash hauling operation, about half of all city homes have their trash collected by city employees. The other half is collected by Minneapolis Refuse Inc., a consortium of several small companies who hire union workers.

When the city last opened up the trash hauling contract in 2008, it contemplated two proposals. One came from MRI and would cost the city $32.9 million over five years. The other came from Aspen Waste Systems for $31.6 million.

The City Council eventually chose MRI because Aspen does not employ union haulers.

Winton said that just because the city considers bids from non-union haulers doesn’t mean it has to choose a non-union hauler.

“I don’t want to pre-judge the outcome,” Winton said. “It could be that we decide, as a city, as leaders, that $1.3 million in savings is not worth it. We could make that decision. But we don’t know what that tradeoff is unless we get free and fair bids from across the spectrum.”

The truck Winton used was from Highland Sanitation & Recycling of Newport.

Bob Stewart, whose family owns Highland, said the company does not use union workers but said his Highland would be interested in bidding on a portion of the city contract, perhaps up to 20,000 homes.

“I think we could definitely take on a contract like that,” Stewart said.