February / March / April 2018
Volume 63, Number 1

Looking back and looking forward

With changes at the leadership level here at Joint Council 7, now is a good time to look back on all that was accomplished under the leadership of our former Joint Council President, Rome Aloise, and to look forward as well.

In 2009, when Rome Aloise took over as President, Teamsters in Northern California were divided. In the Bay Area and on the Coast, Teamsters were part of Joint Council 7. Local Unions in the Central Valley, the northern part of the state, and Reno were all part of Joint Council 38. Understanding there is power in numbers, Rome led the merger of the two Joint Councils, uniting over 100,000 Teamsters from Bakersfield up to the Oregon border and Reno under one banner. Overnight, Joint Council 7 became one of the largest Teamster organizations in North America, and one of the largest labor organizations in California. This meant more resources to better represent our members and grow the union through new worker organizing.

Joint Council 7 was quick to flex its new muscles; and, in the past eight years we’ve built one of the largest organizing, political, and representational programs in Teamster history.

Organizing wins

Since 2009, we’ve organized nearly 20,000 new members into the Teamsters—5,000 in 2017 alone.

That effort began first with a campaign Rome initiated to affiliate clerical workers from throughout the University of California system into our union, which led to the formation of Teamsters Local 2010.

Under Rome’s lead, the Teamsters took on the some of the largest and wealthiest corporations in the world. In the past few years, companies, including Facebook, Apple, and Google, have set up one of the largest private bus systems in the world, running tens of thousands of tech workers every day from all over the Bay Area to the high tech campuses in Silicon Valley. Now, more than 800 tech bus drivers are members of Local 853 and 665.

In proof that a rising tide lifts all boats, wages for municipal, paratransit, and school bus drivers across the Bay Area have risen by about 25% as a result of the increased wages for shuttle bus drivers.

In just the last year, more than 1,000 public employees in Butte County joined Local 137, over 400 workers solid waste and recycling at Recology in Santa Rosa joined Local 665, more than 1,800 workers at West Contra Costa Unified School District joined Local 856, and over 1,200 skilled trades workers in the California State University system are now members of Local 2010.

Political action stokes organizing and job growth

Photo of Rome Aloise speaking at rallyWe have worked to grow our political power, methodically and exponentially, in each election cycle since 2010. Local politicians make choices on things that impact our contracts, our communities, and our families. By working to elect union and worker-friendly politicians, we have opened the doors for organizing drives, for increasing the use of union-made products, and for opposing wage cuts.

In 2010, we made endorsements in all federal and state races, but only 20 endorsements in local races such as county supervisors, city council, and school board. In 2016, we made over 200 endorsements in local races–a 900% increase! And we won in over 70% of the races.

In 2012, we beat back the union-busting Proposition 32 ballot initiative, running the largest worksite political program in our history. In the end, 74% of our registered members voted in the election, and Proposition 32 went down by a 57% to 44% vote.

Photo of Rome Aloise and others at Lobby DayAt the state legislature, we launched huge lobbying efforts that succeeded in forcing the end of the corporate welfare program known as the California Enterprise Zone program. We helped pass AB 263, the strongest law of its kind in the U.S. to protect immigrant workers from threats of retaliation around their immigration status when they stand up for better wages and working conditions. With AB219, we expanded the prevailing wage to cover drivers in the cement industry.

Finally, we passed AB 1897, the only law in the country that holds employers accountable when the temp agencies they contract with violate labor laws, including wage and hour violations, workplace safety, and worker’s compensation.

This is only a slice of what we’ve accomplished under Rome Aloise. In my opinion, every Teamster in Northern California owes Rome a debt of gratitude. In my 25 years of labor and community organizing, I’ve never encountered a more strategic or hard-working leader than Rome. Every elected official, shop steward, and member can repay that debt by getting more involved in your union; we need you now more than ever.

Moving into the future

This year, with the balance of power at the U.S. Supreme Court swung against us by Trump’s appointment of Judge Neil Gorsuch, we expect the rise of so-called “right to work” in the public sector. This will be one of several blows aimed to cripple workers and labor unions and put more power and money into the hands of the 1%. Under the leadership of Joint Council 7 President Dave Hawley and our Executive Board, we are working on a legislative, organizing, and communications plan to face that and other threats.

Similarly, Joint Council 7 has me spending a lot of time on the coming waves of technology and automation. This means autonomous vehicles, including driverless trucks. With predictions of 4 million workers losing their jobs in the next 20 years, this work is critically important. Right now, it is front and center in our negotiations with UPS.

As with everything else, we are running a coordinated organizing, political, and policy program. Our members deserve nothing less.