When Trump was elected and Republicans retained control of both the House and Senate last November, many people called it the nail in the coffin of organized labor in the United States. I am happy to report that since the election, Joint Council 7 has organized more than 3,500 workers into our union, and we are politically stronger than ever!
Rome Aloise made political action a top priority when he took over as president of the Joint Council in 2009. The following year, Teamsters went all-in to elect a slate of candidates to the Board of the Alameda Contra-Costa County Transit District (AC Transit). We were fired up because instead of buying buses made by Teamsters 853 members from a local company called Gillig, AC Transit bought their buses from a company in Belgium! We knocked on doors, made phone calls, and contributed money from DRIVE, the Teamsters political action fund supported by your voluntary payroll deductions, to support three candidates for the AC Transit Board. Ultimately, we swept all three races!
Under the new leadership, AC Transit switched over to Gillig. To date, AC Transit has purchased 277 Gillig buses for about $133 million. That’s a lot of work for more than 600 Teamsters.
And when Gillig was looking to move from Hayward to a new plant, our political action again paid off. States like Texas rolled out the red carpet for Gillig, offering up tax incentives, land, and more, to try and take our jobs out of state. Together with Gillig, we met with Alameda County Supervisor Scott Haggerty—a former card-carrying member of Teamsters Local 70—who helped secure tax credits and fee reductions. We went to Sacramento and met with Teamster-endorsed politicians, earning “California Competes” tax credits for the plant to stay in California. With a commitment to stay, Teamsters Local 853 negotiated a 7-year agreement with Gillig that makes our members the highest paid heavy equipment manufacturing workers in the U.S.; and, it was with great pride, last month, that we joined Gillig at the grand opening of their new state-of-the-art plant in Livermore and watched one of our own members, 51-year Gillig employee Stanley Alcon, cut the ribbon.
Now back to AC Transit. Local 853 also represents hundreds of paratransit drivers and dispatchers at MV Transportation and First Transit who provide paratransit services to low income and disabled residents. They work under an agreement that AC Transit and BART have with TransDev, another Teamster employer.
Local 853 drivers and dispatchers negotiated their current contracts in 2013, lining up our contracts with TransDev’s agreement which expires next year. So we were surprised last month when AC Transit and BART staff recommended extending their agreement with TransDev another five years, locking in the rates and making it very hard for us to get increases. We got to work. Local 853 members attended public meetings for both AC Transit and BART, and we reached out to Teamster-endorsed candidates on both Boards. After hearing from us, we stopped the extension dead in it’s tracks, giving us time to go back and negotiate for more money. This campaign is not done until we get a contract, but political action saved the day for our members and the vulnerable people who count on our services.
I’ll now move up to Sonoma County, where, for more than 20 years, we’ve been trying to organize waste and recycling workers who work for the Ratto Group. This was the final remaining major non-union group in this industry in all of Northern California. The wages and benefits were lower than anywhere else, dragging down our contracts in the waste industry for Locals 70, 315, 350, and 665. When the cities of Santa Rosa and Windsor decided to put their waste and recycling contracts out to bid, Teamsters got involved. Local 665 worked closely with Local 856, who represents city employees in both cities. We made endorsements in the Santa Rosa City Council races last November; and, with a lot of hard work and DRIVE contributions, we won in every race!
Early on, it became clear that Ratto would lose their contracts. Last year, Teamsters passed AB 1336, state legislation that requires cities and counties to retain the workers when they put their garbage contracts out to bid. We can thank Assemblymember Kevin Mullin, a Teamster-endorsed candidate, for that legislation.
So when Recology announced their intention to buy the Ratto Group, it was time for us to talk. Teamsters Locals 315 and 350 have contracts with Recology; and, together with Local 665, we negotiated an agreement to organize all of the nearly 400 drivers, mechanics, customer service representatives, and other workers at Ratto when the purchase was complete. Recology agreed to stay neutral in the organizing effort. Local 665 negotiated similar agreements with the other companies interested in the Sonoma work. In May, the workers won their election and joined Local 665!
Santa Rosa hasn’t chosen any company for the contract yet. The only company that refused to sign an agreement with us was Waste Management. To Local 70’s credit, they pushed Waste Management on the Sonoma County issue while they were negotiating their own new contract covering 425 of their own members in Alameda County. Happily, in July, Local 70 ratified a strong new contract at Waste Management and two other companies.
The victory we’ve had so far shows what we can accomplish when all we all work together around politics, organizing, and bargaining. It is a credit to Rome’s leadership and the officers of Locals 70, 315, 350, 665, and 856.
Finally, down in San Jose, Local 350 has been in a long-running battle with Arizona-based Republic Services, the Teamsters’ second largest employer in the solid waste industry. Republic entered into an agreement with the City of San Jose in 2012. While Republic’s drivers were paid fair wages under a Teamsters Local 350 contract, Republic’s non-union recycling processing workers were paid only minimum wage for difficult and dangerous work. They filed for an election with Local 350; and, in the course of the organizing campaign, we found out the workers were being paid $7/hour less than what is required under the San Jose Living Wage Ordinance. The City opened a case against Republic for the violation.
In June, San Jose city staff put a proposal forward we didn’t like one bit as it gave Republic a $2 million discount on what they rightfully owed the workers. In a blitz of political action, Teamsters stopped the proposed settlement at the San Jose City Council. Teamster-endorsed Councilmember Raul Peralez lead the fight. We had the support of two council members who we worked to elect last November: Sergio Jimenez and Sylvia Arenas, along with Councilmember Magdalena Carrasco and Mayor Sam Liccardo.
What all these stories illustrate is that political action gets results. When your business agent comes to your barn and asks you to contribute a few dollars each week to our political action committee DRIVE, please sign up. Make sure you are registered to vote and that you read our recommendations in this newsletter when Election Day rolls around. Your job might depend on it!