December 2015 / January 2016
Newsletter Volume 60, Number 5

Teamsters deliver the goods in San Francisco

In another big month for Joint Council 7, we celebrated two wins in San Francisco that demonstrate what Teamsters can do when we unify.

On November 17, the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (SFMTA) unanimously voted to require high tech shuttle bus companies to commit to labor harmony as a condition to use bus stops in San Francisco.

Why is this important? Here’s why. Back in February, 87 Loop Transportation bus drivers for Facebook ratified a contract that raised their wages an average of $9 per hour, provided up to five weeks paid vacation, paid holidays and sick days, fully paid family health care, and participation in the Teamsters Pension plan. This amazing first contract, achieved under Joint Council President Rome Aloise, brought these workers into the middle class overnight.

The following weekend, more than 140 Compass Transportation bus drivers who drive for Apple, Yahoo, eBay, and other companies, voted to join Teamsters Local 853. On November 22, they ratified their first contract, bringing their wages to between $24 and $31.50 an hour, with affordable benefits, paid holidays and sick days, and a pension. Because of the Teamsters, they just got their first paid Thanksgiving holiday—and they have plenty to be thankful for!

But what about the rest of the high tech shuttle bus companies? The San Francisco Board of Supervisors recognized the value of these workers having a union in March, when, at the suggestion of Supervisor Scott Wiener, they asked the SFMTA to consider the labor practices of the shuttle bus companies. All of these companies share bus stops with San Francisco MUNI buses, so the SFMTA can set conditions on the bus companies to operate there. Because the Teamsters are politically active in San Francisco, we were able to bring drivers to meet with members of the Board of Supervisors to press our case. And, it’s working.

Photo of Rome Aloise testifying at SFMTA hearing

Take Bauer’s Intelligent Transportation, which serves Cisco, the 49ers, and San Francisco events like Outside Lands and Bay to Breakers. When Bauer’s drivers started to organize with Local 665, the company formed a sham union to get around us. Not a single worker voted on joining that union or on the sub-standard contract they adopted. In response, we took action in the courts and on the streets. The day the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) considered the case, nearly 100 Teamsters from Visalia to San Francisco came to protest Bauer’s illegal activities by meeting its buses with picket signs and bringing traffic to a standstill. The NLRB settled the case that day, throwing out the sham union and calling for a new election. Unfortunately, Bauer’s anti-union activities only picked up steam, and we now find ourselves back in front of the NLRB challenging the results of that election. The drivers still have no union and nothing close to the wages and benefits that the Loop and Compass drivers enjoy.

We won’t give up on the Bauer’s drivers. And thanks to our political and organizing power, in February 2016, if Bauer’s cannot demonstrate labor harmony with the Teamsters, they stand in danger of losing their permit to operate. That should send Bauer’s and all the high tech companies a strong message to get their houses in order.

The labor harmony vote was held on November 17. The next day, the San Francisco Board of Supervisors voted to require prevailing wage and worker retention for more than 150 paratransit drivers, dispatchers, and others at the SFMTA.

Next year, the paratransit contract goes out to bid. In the last newsletter, I wrote about our successful campaign to win those paratransit workers an $8 raise over the five-year contract–an amazing 44% increase. We doubled their paid days off from 12 to 25 and won five paid holidays–up from zero. Plus, the members will get a 401k plan with an employer match. Now, no company can come in and lowball the wages and benefits in their bid. And they have to keep our members if they win the contract.

Local 350 has done an excellent job of winning these guarantees in the solid waste/recycling industry, but we are now getting this language in paratransit, parking, stadiums, and other Teamster industries. That’s how we protect our members!

None of these wins would be possible if we didn’t get involved in politics. That means using the money that members donate weekly to DRIVE, our political action fund, to support politicians who support us. And it means endorsing politicians who will help push our issues through. Without Supervisor Scott Wiener or Mayor Ed Lee, we never would have won labor harmony at the MTA. And without Supervisor David Campos, our paratransit drivers were looking at a strike. But thanks to their support, we are making a difference for Teamsters and workers who want to be Teamsters.

Finally, there’s no substitute for boots on the ground to demonstrate Teamster power. Between Bauer’s protests, mobilizations to Board of Supervisors meetings, and meetings with politicians, more than 500 Teamsters have been on the move in San Francisco from just about every local in our Joint Council. That’s Teamster unity and that’s how we win!