Court Decision Approves Seattle’s Construction Waste Monopolies

John Kramer
John Kramer · February 14, 2005

Seattle, Wash.–In a decision issued today that may have tragic consequences for entrepreneurs in the City of Seattle, the Washington State Court of Appeals Division I upheld Seattle’s creation of construction waste hauling monopolies for Rabanco, Ltd. and Waste Management of Washington, Inc. The ruling tolls a potential death knell for independent haulers in the City and will restrict consumer choice. If the decision stands, consumers will now be limited to only those companies the City of Seattle selects for them.

The case, Ventenbergs v. City of Seattle, was filed on behalf of Joe Ventenbergs, who owns the Seattle-based Kendall Trucking, Inc., and Ron Haider, owner of the Lynnwood-based Haider Construction, Inc. Kendall Trucking sought the opportunity to legally haul so-called “construction waste” from construction and demolition sites. Construction waste haulers provide dumpsters to the sites, the construction and demolition companies fill up these dumpsters with construction waste, and then the haulers take away the dumpsters and unload the contents at transfer stations. One of the construction companies that wishes to hire Ventenbergs is Haider Construction, Inc., but the City mandates that Haider hire only those companies the City selects.

Rather than encourage entrepreneurs like Joe and Ron, the City of Seattle made it illegal for them to do business with each other. The court’s decision today upheld the City’s restriction of the market in hauling construction waste only to Rabanco and Waste Management.

“The court’s decision today suggests that the government could put anybody it wants out of business in order to preserve the market share of well-connected multi-national corporations,” said William Maurer, the executive director of the Institute for Justice Washington Chapter, which filed the suit on behalf of Ventenbergs and Haider. “This decision is incompatible with the right to earn an honest living guaranteed by the Washington Constitution and, sadly, is symptomatic of Seattle’s increasingly unfriendly environment for small businesses.”

IJ-WA Staff Attorney Jeanette Petersen added, “The court’s decision was especially disheartening because the evidence produced at the trial court clearly demonstrated that the City restricted the market in construction hauling not for any public health and safety reasons, but to protect itself from a lawsuit from these two corporations. Nonetheless, the court simply ignored the evidence put before it and deferred to the City.”

Maurer continued, “We are carefully considering every option before us in response to this blow to entrepreneurship in Seattle, and we will continue to fight for the rights of Washingtonians to earn an honest living in the occupation of their choice without arbitrary government interference.”