After several difficult years, better times are starting to reappear. Many of our members who have been on layoff are now starting to return to work. Most of the employers that we have labor contracts with have been hiring and aggressively going after new business.
One of Local 150’s hardest-hit work groups has been the construction industry. As money for new home loans became harder to get, everything associated with building a new neighborhood stopped. Shopping centers, schools, roads and everything in those homes and businesses are staffed by, maintained by, delivered to or built by Teamsters Local 150 members.
Here is the good news: some major construction projects are underway in the Sacramento area. PG&E is retrofitting several of their pipelines in and around our area. The $500 million Capitol Southeast Connector, which will connect Interstate 5 in the Elk Grove area to Hwy. 50 in the El Dorado Hills area, has begun. And the $82.5 million Interstate 5 Interchange project at Cosumnes has also begun. In general, Sacramento real estate and general construction is recovering more quickly than anywhere else in the country, which is good for all Teamsters Local 150 members.
Perhaps one project that everyone has heard about has to do with the Sacramento Kings remaining in Sacramento. Hundreds of union members, many of them represented by Teamsters Local 150, work at the Sleep Train Arena. The Teamsters, as well as several other unions, met with Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson and the new owners of the Kings. We received their commitment that the current employees would keep their union jobs at the new arena. We also received their commitment to build the new arena and surrounding major support businesses with union labor. These new projects will create hundreds of new union jobs.
While things are looking up, we still have some industries that are not yet in recovery mode. With these employers, negotiations are difficult and protecting what our members have becomes the challenge.
For this year only, there will not be a Teamsters Local 150 Picnic at Elk Grove Park. Instead we invite you to join members from several other unions at the annual Central Labor Council Labor Day Picnic at William Land Park. The event is free to union members and their families. The picnic starts at 3:00pm and ends at 7:00pm. Jim Tobin Secretary Treasurer
After a several-month long organizing drive, the 20 drivers at the Pepsi facility in Benicia voted to be represented by Local 315.
The Local had attempted to organize this group once before. “We stayed in touch with them and when they indicated they were serious and ready to join the union, we moved in quickly,” says Secretary-Treasurer Dale Robbins. “Pepsi had recently reduced some of their benefits, so they really wanted the protections and job security of a Teamster contract.” A solid majority signed cards for union representation and the campaign began.
This organizing campaign was a real team effort by the drivers and Local 315 Organizer Jim Sveum, with help from President Carlos Borba and Business Agent Don E. Garcia. Local 315 arranged for the JC 7 Truck to show up the day before the election for a support rally with many of the 315 Business Agents and supporters from Local 853 in attendance and lending a hand.
Pepsi mounted an aggressive antiunion campaign, but on June 6, the drivers stuck to their guns. Their determination paid off as they voted 14-6 in favor of the union. “We are committed to negotiating a good first contract for these new members. I congratulate them on their organizing victory and welcome them to Local 315,” Robbins said.
Just like most Fridays, Greg Amador was working at the Snelson warehouse in Ceres. Greg has been a Teamster since 2001 and has worked for Snelson since 2012.
Shortly before noon on June 7, 2013, Greg was in the warehouse talking to co-worker Viola Straume. Viola went into the break room for lunch. As she was eating her salad, it became lodged in her throat. Within moments she realized she needed help. Viola quickly walked out of the break room and headed towards Greg. Recognizing her obvious signs of distress, Greg hurried towards her and administered the Heimlich maneuver, dislodging the object from Viola's throat and allowing her to breathe normally again.
Greg’s quick response played a very important role in saving a choking victim. Viola is thankful that Greg was there, willing and able to help her. Snelson thanked Greg for going beyond his scope of work, and recognized him in the company newsletter.
For many years, Local 431 has performed pipeline work for PG&E within their jurisdiction. In June of 2012, ARB was awarded a pipeline job in Fresno, but the company contended that they were not going to use Teamsters on the job as they had already employed Laborers to perform Teamster work. After two weeks of pushing, the Local finally got a pre-job with ARB and dispatched four Teamsters out to the job. Local 431 filed a grievance for the work that Teamsters had missed out on and after one year of pursuing the grievance, two Local 431 members received checks totaling $11,338.20 for back wages and benefits. “Protecting Teamster jobs is Job One for me,” says Local 431 President Darrell Pratt. “We’re proud to get the work back for our members.” (Left) Pipeline Steward Larry Bennett with Pratt. (Right) Jerry Ray with Pratt. Both are showing off their back pay checks!
On June 13, Local 490 retirees came back to the Teamster hall for a picnic. They enjoyed BBQ hot dogs and hamburgers, donated by Carlos Borba and Don E. Garcia and grilled by Manny Garcia. Congrats to John and Celia Hansen for winning the raffle grand prize—a night at the Holiday Inn at Fisherman’s Wharf.
It had been a long process for Teamsters Local 533 member Victor Flores, but “the outcome of winning my job back was outstanding,” he says.
Victor has been a Waste Management Teamster member since March 12, 2001. He has also served as shop steward and Local Executive Board Trustee. The Company terminated Victor on March 12, 2012, for an alleged second violation of life critical rules (double siding).
Teamsters Local 533 Business Agents Lori Pittard and Gary Watson attempted to resolve Victor’s termination through the grievance process, but the company was unwilling to settle. The company stated “the only way Victor Flores will work for Waste Management again will be if an arbitrator puts him back to work.”
So the union decided to take this case to arbitration, convinced that Flores had a good case based on the company's interpretation of the “double siding” rule and their lack of evidence.
On March 27, 2013 after more than a year off of work, the arbitrator ruled that Flores should be put back to work immediately, with all lost wages and benefits as outlined in the Collective Bargaining Agreement, minus a 30-day suspension.
“I would like to thank Local 533 for all their hard work and getting me back to work” Victor said. “I am proud to have the Teamsters in my corner.”
Local 665 members employed by the operator of the Lake County Transit Authority staged a two-day strike on July 1-2 to call attention to low wages and benefits.
“Negotiations have been stalled, it was time for our members to send a message that we need meaningful improvements for the vital work they perform,” said Ralph Miranda, Local 665 president.
The strike by 35 Teamsters at Paratransit Services/Lake Transit effectively suspended public transit in and around Lake County. Even in the face of this inconvenience, public sentiment was in favor of the drivers.
“Throughout the two-day strike, horns and high signs were a constant. Even though Lake County citizens were directly affected by this strike, their support was evident to our members as well as management,” said Secretary-Treasurer Mark Gleason. Local county media gave extensive coverage to the striking workers.
Outstanding issues include a demand for restoration of “Step Increases” in the contract, which have been frozen for more than three years. Local 665 is also seeking caps in the co-pay for health care.
“The wages and health plan for these drivers are currently bare-bones,” Miranda said. “It’s time these members earned fair wages and benefits”.
After the strike the company agreed to new talks and a Federal Mediator has been called in to assist in upcoming sessions. However, if talks break down, Local 665 has made in clear that another strike could again inconvenience the residents of Lake County.
“We don’t want to strike again, but we will if we have to,” said Miranda. “This company needs to get serious at the bargaining table.”
Approximately 130 Teamsters Local Union 665 members unanimously ratified a two year agreement with Manzana Products located in Graton.
The members accepted a $1 wage increase with full MOB on the medical insurance provided by the company. The company also provides an excellent vacation and sick leave benefits package.
“This is a very fair offer and we recommended acceptance,” said Ralph Miranda, President and North Bay Director, who negotiated this package.
Manzana Products has been in contract with the Teamsters for 40-plus years and is the last union food processing operation remaining in Sonoma County. The operation specializes in processing and packaging organic apple sauce, juice and vinegar from apples grown in Sonoma County.
One long-term employee is Anna Smith, who has been a Teamster since she started working at Manzana Products in 1976. She continues her job as a Leadperson/ Supervisor in the Juice/ Bottling Department.
Local 856 Member Josh Greene doesn’t rely on chance to protect his rights on the job. The Marin General Hospital Emergency Department Technician can focus on giving quality patient care knowing that he has a strong union to support him and his colleagues at work.
“Sometimes you’re lucky to have good managers, but then there are bad managers too. Union contracts keep employers accountable,” the 11-year Teamster said.
Greene and his fellow ED Techs perform critical functions for patients who are in need of urgent medical care at the Greenbrae facility.
Greene says the advantages of having a union contract extend beyond the membership and to the patients.
“Patients benefit from union employees because when we’re not overtaxed, when we’re getting our breaks, and not in fear of losing our jobs, we can do our job better,” said Greene, who’s been a shop steward for the past six years.
The necessity of having a union contract and aggressive enforcement of it was highlighted for Marin General Teamsters when a fellow member was wrongfully terminated last year. The hospital alleged that the member had not followed guidelines, even though there was clear evidence to the contrary.
Local 856 brought the case to arbitration and won —resulting in full reinstatement, with backpay.
“The whole department was overjoyed when the member was brought back to work,” Greene said. “Everyone thought the termination was a huge injustice.”
Local 856 Staff Attorney and Representative Susanna Farber said the win is important because it clarified the members’ scope of work.
“Union members want to serve patients the best they can,” Farber said. “The hospital needs to understand that they have to back up discipline with evidence,” she said.
This latest victory culminates a string of arbitration wins for Local 856 healthcare members over the past three years, one of which resulted in $39,000 in backpay for phlebotomists over a certification pay issue at Eden Medical Center in Castro Valley.
“When we see something wrong, we will not hesitate to fight it, whether it's a unfair termination or an employer attempting to circumvent the intent of the contract,” said Matthew Mullany, Local 856 representative.
More than 1,200 Local 856 members help patients and their families navigate the healthcare system at hospitals and healthcare facilities all over the Bay Area, working in classifications from mammography technicians, mental health counselors, and nursing assistants to cooks and cashiers.
St. Rose Hospital Shop Steward Judy Rodrigues appreciates the reassurance that being a Teamster affords her and her co-workers. Rodrigues, who works in customer service and helps patients with billing questions at the Hayward facility, admits that she wasn’t sure that she needed a union after the Teamsters were first voted in.
She quickly changed her mind after attending a union meeting where she learned how far behind in wages she and her colleagues were compared to neighboring hospitals.
She soon joined the negotiating committee. “We got people big raises.”
Her employer has faced some financial difficulties of late, further reinforcing her belief in the importance of a union in the workplace.
“If you have a union behind you, companies can’t pull high jinks, like lowering wages or cutting back hours,” she said. “It’s protection for us, the workers.”
Marin General Shop Steward Will Ward believes that solidarity is crucial. "When members are facing discipline, I tell them that they have support and the union is behind them, the 17-year Teamster said. “An injury to one, is an injury to all.”
“We’re in the business of saving lives and we are very passionate," Rodrigues said. "We are important to the community and to the world.”
Since November, 2012, Local 890 leadership has been meeting with fulltime and seasonal workers at San Benito Foods in Hollister to discuss issues they face at work and plan strategies to improve their work environment and benefits. This tomato cannery employs about 400 people, of which 300 or more are seasonal.
“The response has been great,” says Business Agent Oscar Rios. More than 120 workers, including many seasonals, have attended the six meetings held so far.
“I like coming to the meetings because we learn about our rights, the company, and the rules,” said Graciela Medina, San Benito seasonal worker. For the members, meeting during their seasonal break allows them to focus on educating themselves, something rarely achieved during the high intensity, fast-paced working season.
As a result of these meetings, a group of year-round and seasonal workers have met with the company to address several issues they face at work. “These management-worker meetings have been very successful,” says Rios. “The most important part of these meetings is that workers have been empowered to speak up.”
The workers’ first victory was that the company sponsored cultural sensitivity training for the human resources staff in order to improve their relationship with the overwhelmingly Latino, Spanish-speaking workers.
The plant manager has voiced his willingness to listen to the workers’ recommendations and suggestions.
“Whether they’re full-time or seasonal, the employees have worked for this plant for a lot of years,” says Local 890 President Crescencio Diaz. “They deserve to be listened to, and for their recommendations to become a reality.” A former cannery worker himself, Diaz has known and worked with some of these members for more than 35 years.
The union contract at San Benito Foods expires in December and the employees will be seeking improvements in wages and benefits.
Teamsters Local 2010 led another successful union-building campaign in June, talking to UC Davis workers about the contract and their rights at work, signing up new members and activists and promoting the union’s presence on the campus.
In just two short weeks, activists and staff spoke with almost 600 bargaining unit members from the UC Davis Campus and Medical Center and increased Teamster membership by 10%. More than 150 people joined the union and 21 of them signed up to be union activists.
“Meeting members and addressing their concerns is the best way to strengthen the union.” says Local 2010 Executive Director Jason Rabinowitz. “UC Davis has a strong group of members. They keep UC running for students, patients, doctors, and all Californians.”
“It’s wonderful to have union representatives looking out for our best interests,” said member Letia Groening.
“I am very excited to have Teamsters representing us here at UCDHS. Thank you. You guys rock,” said Carolina Medeiros from the Patient Transplant Department.
The Local thanks all of the members who participated in this important campaign.