By Cole Rosengren, Waste Dive
Amid a perpetually tight labor market, waste and recycling service providers are trying to get more creative in their efforts to recruit and retain frontline employees — especially drivers. The current state of political uncertainty over U.S. immigration policy has now become enough of a factor that more of the industry’s biggest companies are finally speaking out.
“Both parties need to get their s— together on immigration. It’s a mess,” said Waste Management CEO Jim Fish during a session at the WasteExpo investor summit earlier this week. “Washington cannot get its act together on immigration, no matter what party is in the White House.”
The comment may have seemed out of character for Fish’s mild-mannered public persona, but he is far from the only one who feels frustrated. Waste Dive heard from multiple companies throughout the conference that this is becoming a bigger issue, both in terms of untapped potential employees and current employees that could be deported due to status changes.
Citing his own English ancestors, Fish invoked the history of Ellis Island as a reminder of how many people currently living in the U.S. have immigrant roots themselves. While every company is careful to note they don’t employ anyone not authorized to work — Waste Management has been burned before, settling a dispute over the issue with the federal government for $5.5 million last year — they welcome anyone cleared to work that wants to join the team. According to Fish, about a quarter of his drivers are Hispanic, and expanding recruitment to a more diverse population is key to growth.