Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf cut the ribbon to Local 70’s new parking lot solar array at a “grand re-opening” party on November 4. In addition to the solar system and new LED lighting, which will save the Local thousands of dollars on electricity each month, the union also re-paved its parking lot. The celebration included a delicious barbecue.
Bangor is small town in Yuba County where Teamster member Debbie Warnke and her husband Mark reside with their family on 40 acres of land. It is also where you will find Debbie’s water truck parked alongside their olive trees and livestock. Debbie has been a Teamster owner-operator since 2013, never thinking that, one day, her 4,000-gallon water truck would serve as the tool to help save her home and those of her neighbors.
As the Yuba County fire developed, it made its way to the main road in Bangor, La Porte Road— just across the street from the Warnke’s property. With very little time to spare, and fearing that the fire would destroy their home, the Warnkes prepared to evacuate. After loading up the family, Debbie’s husband made a decision to stay and fight the fire. Warnke Trucking, LLC was now the town’s sole source of water, extinguishing the fire when it hopped over La Porte Road. For hours through the night, Mark operated the water truck, smothering fires as they started.
The Yuba County fire destroyed tens of thousands of acres and took the lives of four residents. Mark Warnke’s bravery and heroism saved homes and the post office. Mark was the only resident to stay behind, communicating the status of the fire, homes destroyed and fire containment to residents who were forced to evacuate.
Needless to say, Debbie is very proud of her husband, and Local 150 is proud of their member’s sacrifice and courage. Our thoughts and prayers go out to all of the families affected by the NorCal fires of 2017.
“I got tired of watching it on TV and not being
to do anything. I just wanted to do something,” says UPS driver and member of Local 315 Tim Davenport, who took sick days from his job as a feeder driver at UPS North Bay to go to Puerto Rico after the hurricane. “They were looking for people with Class A licenses, and I just figured I could help.”
On October 3, Davenport flew to Newark, New Jersey to board a chartered plane filled with union members. “Twenty different unions were represented. They ranged from doctors and nurses to electricians, truck drivers, carpenters, everything,” he says.
While Davenport didn’t ultimately drive any big rigs, he felt that the help he was able to offer was even more personal. “Mostly, I went out with the Red Cross. I drove a box truck to make deliveries of food, supplies, tarps, tents, and water to outlying areas that FEMA hadn’t gotten to yet. One day, we removed debris from a school; another day, we put tarps on roofs that had been blown off.”
The group of union volunteers stayed on cots at the Roberto Clemente Coliseum in San Juan, just upstairs from where the mayor had her temporary office. “We had about 25-30 people in a room, and there were some loud snorers,” Davenport recalls.
“There was just so much need, and it felt like we hardly made a dent,” Davenport explained. “We’d distribute 1-2 days worth of supplies, but they needed so much more. The major cities were not too bad off; but, just outside, it was like a zombie apocalypse movie set. There was no electricity, running water or cell service.”
Davenport says that he had the best coffee of his life in Puerto Rico. “People were really thankful and really friendly. We’d be handing out the food, and people would offer us coffee and food back.“
By the time Davenport was ready to head home, he says that help from FEMA and the US military was starting to kick in. “It started to get better, but it will take a long time to get back to normal.”
Davenport says he always wanted to do something like this, but this was his first time actually doing it. “At first, I was trying to keep it quiet, but my friends and family talked me into talking. Hopefully this will inspire others, because every hand helps out so much.”
Celebrating Local 853’s 80th anniversary, a record number of members came to the Local’s 18th annual membership appreciation event at San Leandro’s John Muir Junior High School on November 4.
In addition to a great Mexican-style breakfast and gifts for all members in attendance, they were able to get flu shots and they learned about the state of the union.
Closing out the event was the annual raffle. More than 50 lucky members won a range of electronic gifts, including televisions, speakers, computers, tablets, and much more.
In October, MCMEA, an independent association of more than 300 public employees in Marin County, voted overwhelmingly to affiliate with Teamsters 856.
MCMEA members are County professionals in public works, health and human services, the County sheriff’s office, information technology services, and more. Teamsters 856 has a long history of advocating for working people in Marin County – the Local also represents the County’s district attorneys and probation officers, as well as more than 400 health care workers at Marin General Hospital.
The addition of MCMEA continues the union’s steady growth. Local 856 has doubled in size in the last 10 years.
“Our union is growing; and, with it, our ability to provide strong representation for public employees,” said Peter Finn, 856 Secretary-Treasurer / Principal Officer. “We look forward to getting to the bargaining table to fight for a strong contract for MCMEA members.”
Increased responsibilities for MCMEA’s Board led them to seek out additional support from a larger union that could represent their members’ best interests.
“We were looking for power in numbers,” said Felix Meneau, MCMEA Treasurer. “We want to enhance our existing involvement with our membership and engage them more. It will be great to have extra support and professional negotiators at the bargaining table.”
The board took into account the Teamsters’ strength, capacity, and history of winning for working people when they voted unanimously to recommend affiliation to their membership.
“We want Marin to be a place people respect and want to work,” said Meneau. “We want to retain the best employees and seek out the best new employees. The Teamsters can help us be competitive and a place people want to stay.“
According to MCMEA President Eric Swift, immense competition from other agencies and businesses has caused Marin County to consistently lose staff to other counties or the private sector. With negotiations for their next contract beginning in the coming months, MCMEA’s leadership and board want to add improvements that will help them retain talent in Marin.
“This will be our first contract together,” said Swift. “I’m looking forward to going through the equity studies and making sure our members are up to par with our counterparts in other counties.”
“We’ve been on our own for 25 years,” continued Swift. “Now we have the best of two worlds, and we’re able to do what’s best for our members.”
The year is winding down, but our union shows no signs of stopping, as we continue to grow in power and strength. After adding more than 1,400 new skilled trades members just a few months ago, the Local held its biggest steward trainings yet with over 150 members attending in Northern and Southern California, including over 75 skilled trades members.
“Our local union has some of the best stewards in the movement,” said Local 2010 Secretary-Treasurer Jason Rabinowitz. “Not only are they well-trained, but they have an unwavering commitment to building member power. Having a packed house at both of our trainings confirms that our union is on the right track.”
Trainings were held at Local 853’s hall in Oakland on October 17-18 and in Local 2010’s Southern California offices in Bellflower on October 26-27.
“It was wonderful having so many new and seasoned stewards eager to learn,” said Catherine Cobb, Local 2010 President. “You could feel the energy as everyone exchanged experiences and learned from each other. Everyone was united in helping their fellow workers.”
The October stewards trainings were the first to include the SETC skilled trades workers from the UC and CSU system since their affiliation with Local 2010 in September.
“There was an undeniable sense of pride in the room,” said Jon Kramer, Plumber at UCLA. “No matter our background or profession, every person in that room was a Teamster.”
On the first day, union leaders began learning the fundamentals of unionism and the role stewards play in the workplace. An advanced course was taught on the second day to teach tactics and strategy to win fairness on the job.
“Union stewards are crucial in protecting the rights of our members,” said Joshua Gillespie, Electrician at Sonoma State University. “With trainings such as these, I know we will be ready to take on whatever management throws at us.”
“Thanks to everyone who came out for our stewards trainings,” said Rabinowitz. “Your dedication will help thousands of workers across California.
Local 2785’s first picnic in September in San Bruno Park was such a success that the event will now be annual. About 300 members and their families turned out for a nice barbecue catered lunch. Big screen TVs and other small items were raffled off.