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Associated Press

CHICAGO - Striking garbage workers have overwhelmingly rejected a contract offer from Chicago-area private waste haulers, union officials announced Sunday.

Some 3,300 Teamsters who handle garbage for private waste haulers in the suburbs and in Chicago's high-rise dwellings have been on strike since Wednesday.

Teamsters union officials said the contract proposal, which the Chicago Area Refuse Haulers Association called its "best and final" offer, was rejected by a 92 percent margin.

"We've been telling the association for months that our members will not accept a subpar contract offer," said Bill Woldman, Teamsters Local 731 president, in a written statement.

The union is ready to negotiate again, said Teamsters spokesman Brian Rainville.

Waste-hauling association spokesman Bill Plunkett said late Sunday that his group was not planning new negotiations and had "nothing more to offer." He issued a statement saying it is up to the Teamsters to resolve the strike.

"The Teamsters began this strike, they have chosen to continue it, and the Teamsters will have to look the people of Chicago and the suburbs in the eye this week as the waste piles up," the statement said.

The association represents 16 of the largest private waste removal companies in Chicago and its suburbs. The strike has disrupted trash collection to residents and businesses in the region.

The union had recommended that members of locals 731 and 301 vote against the five-year contract, saying they were still more than 50 cents per hour apart in each year.

Plunkett said over the five-year proposed contract, annual compensation would have risen 24 percent, including benefits.

Copyright 2003 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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