Eighteen of 21 full-time workers at the Rockland County Recycling Center in Hillburn have voted to go on strike, Teamsters Local 445 told local media this week.

Teamsters accused ReCommunity, the Charlotte, N.C.-based national company that runs the recycling facility in Hillburn, of taking advantage of most Spanish-speaking employees and paying them substandard wages.

Teamsters Local 445 Representative Jerry Ebert asserted that the employees were all legal immigrants and said, “The company is taking advantage of the language barrier. No one deserves to be treated this badly by an employer. Sorting through the county’s trash is a dangerous and exhausting job. These workers deserve a decent wage and more time off.”

One claim Ebert made–that half the employees earn around $9 per hour–was rebutted by management. ReCommunity said that only six of 21 employees earn $9 or below.

ReCommunity offered a press statement explaining their position: “We are offering competitive wages, healthcare, 401ks, and additional benefits that match company policy. Additionally, ReCommunity has an annual pay review process to award merit salary increases, the last process and merit increases occurred in May of 2013.

“At the ReCommunity Rockland facility our supervisor speaks fluent Spanish and is included in all communications including a daily meeting. Also, we have two full-time bilingual human resource specialists that team members can contact if needed.

“ReCommunity met with union representatives on four occasions in 2013. In fact, we are pleased to report that we have already agreed to several items proposed by the representatives…At the last meeting in early December, union representatives did not respond to our previous proposals. Since then, union representatives have not proposed any follow-up dates for the next negotiating meeting.”

The workers voted to join the Teamsters last summer, Ebert noted.

He complained that the company is refusing in negotiations to grant the employees a raise or any additional time off.

He said the employees and the union would soon set a date for the strike to begin.

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