TEAMSTER Action

August / September 2014
Newsletter Volume 59, Number 3

Joint Council 7 Kicks into Overdrive

Over the last three months, Teamsters in Northern California have been on the go, moving over 10,000 members on the streets and on the job. Here’s a snapshot of some of the things that have been happening.

May: Briefings and lobby days

The month started with Assemblymember Rob Bonta (Oakland) hosting a briefing for elected officials, unions, and community allies on the Taylor Farms campaign. The Alameda Labor and Building Trades Councils cohosted the event, which earned great support.

The following week, Joint Council 7’s work and our campaign at Taylor Farms were highlighted at the Teamsters Unity Conference in Las Vegas for Teamsters from around the country.

Right after we came back, more than 50 Teamsters and Taylor Farms workers hit the Capitol in our third lobby day for AB 1897, a bill by Assembly Labor and Employment Committee Chair Roger Hernandez that will hold companies accountable when the temporary agencies they use break major California labor laws. This is a key issue for our jobs in warehousing, food processing, solid waste/recycling, and more industries where we see the explosive growth in temporary jobs.

 

About 900 Latino workers at Taylor Farms in Tracy are organizing with Teamsters Local 601. More than two-thirds of them work for two temporary agencies, even though some workers have been there for over 10 years as so-called “temps.” When workers are injured, have wage claims, or other issues, the temporary agencies and Taylor Farms both point fingers at each other, denying responsibility. AB 1897 would fix that.

Just about every Local has shown up for our lobby days, and members joined delegations of Taylor Farms workers throughout the Capitol, earning support for the campaign and legislation. Despite dire predictions that we could never do a bill this big in an election year, the Assembly has passed the bill and it now goes to the Senate.

The same week we were in the Capitol, Taylor Farms workers left Tracy at 4:30 am to join striking McDonald’s workers on the picket line at 6 am in Oakland. Taylor Farms supplies McDonald's, Subway, Chipotle, and other fast food chains with produce.

That very same evening, nearly 200 Taylor Farms workers, Teamsters, and community supporters packed a meeting in Tracy where Assemblymember Hernandez and others heard horror stories from Taylor Farms workers and pledged their support.

The following Saturday, more than 100 shop stewards from Teamsters Local 439 and 601 kicked off a political organizing campaign in the Central Valley, while 20 shop stewards from Teamsters Local 386 were meeting in Modesto.

Local 439's DRIVE Kick-off

This effort includes joining DRIVE (the Teamsters political action fund), voter registration, and supporting candidates who support workers. Local 439 quickly set the bar for every other Local, collecting over 400 new DRIVE cards in a week.

Back in the Bay Area, 20 Teamsters from Locals 70, 315, and 856 walked precincts for Tim Sbranti in his race against Steve Glazer for Assembly District 16.

Sbranti is a long-time friend of workers, while Glazer was running on a platform of banning the right for transit employees to strike. Glazer LOST! Now we are working to get Sbranti elected in November against his Republican opponent.

June: Hoffa visits capitol & Taylor Farms

Photo of Commack, Hoffa, Brown, and Aloise

June saw a whirlwind of activities related to President Hoffa’s visit. In Sacramento, after private meetings with the Governor, the Senate Pro Tem, and the Assembly Speaker, dozens of legislators flocked to a reception with Mr. Hoffa. President Hoffa, our Joint Council President Rome Aloise, Joint Council 42 President Randy Cammack, and IBT Trustee Ron Herrera received a standing ovation after being introduced on the Assembly floor. This was an excellent opportunity to raise our campaign at Taylor Farms and garner support for AB 1897.

In Tracy, all stops were pulled out as more than 800 people descended on Taylor Farms to show their support for the workers. This was reportedly the largest labor demonstration in Tracy’s history, drawing Teamsters and other labor allies from all over Northern California. That was Teamster power!

Photo of JC Rig serving as a backdrop for the rally crowd

The next day, Mr. Hoffa toured United Airlines in San Francisco, meeting with more than 1,500 members of Teamsters 856 and 986.

Finally, because Teamsters are also about having fun, over 2,500 members and their families came out to our annual day at the ballpark to see the A’s beat the Yankees. Next year we hope to hit 5,000!

The same week that the General President was in town, our ally organization, Working Partnerships USA, started to phone bank Joint Council 7 Teamsters who work in the food processing industry. Over the course of the week, they made over 7,000 calls and reached more than 700 members. Key issues members mentioned on the phones were improving conditions in the workplace, English classes, job training programs, citizenship classes, better pension benefits, access to health insurance, immigration services, childcare, and information on the new drivers licenses for undocumented immigrants.

On June 14, about 100 Teamsters joined other unions in the film industry in a rally for AB 1839, the film tax credits bill.

We were back on the beat the next week as Teamsters Local 431 met with Assemblymember Henry Perea in his Fresno district and Taylor Farms workers returned to the Capitol to help shepherd AB 1897 through the Senate Labor Committee. Teamsters Local 2010’s anti-bullying bill, AB 1839, also passed!

Finally, Locals 87, 386, 431, 439, 517, 601, 856, and 948 joined UFCW and SEIU locals in the Central Valley to discuss shared priorities and campaigns to change the balance of power toward workers in the Central Valley.

July: Meetings with candidates

The political action drumbeat kept pounding, as over 70 stewards from Teamsters Local 2010 joined DRIVE at their annual stewards seminar. Members fron the Local also met with Lt. Governor and UC Regent Gavin Newsom to discuss issues.

On the organizing front, Teamsters Local 890 filed for an election to represent about 250 workers at an onion dehydration plant in Firebaugh. The election is scheduled for August 15th.

Locals 386, 439, 601, and Taylor Farms workers met with Senator Cathleen Galgiani (Stockton), who is supporting the campaign at Taylor Farms and AB 1897.

With the November election upon us, we are interviewing candidates and making endorsements. Teamster Locals including 70, 287, 315, 350, 665, 853, and 856 have been working fundraisers for the candidates we support. There isn’t a fundraiser in Alameda County that Local 70 doesn’t attend, raising the profile of the Local for all to see. It costs money to win elections, and that’s why it’s so important for members to join DRIVE. We need every penny we can raise to help the people who help us. The DRIVE campaign continues to make its way through the Locals. We’ve hit thousands of members at their work sites and over 750 members have joined DRIVE since we began.

Finally, in case you wonder about this whole DRIVE thing and politics, back in 2010, we worked very hard to elect three people to the board of AC Transit, including Mark Williams— son of a retired Teamsters Local 853 member. Shortly after our candidates won the election, they pushed the AC Transit board to stop purchasing buses from Belgium and start purchasing them from Gillig in Hayward—home to 500 members of Teamsters Local 853. In July, the Board voted to purchase another 95 buses, bringing the total up to 187 buses since we won the AC Board election. That represents five years of work for 500 Teamsters and support for unionmade, American-made buses. And that, brothers and sisters, is why we do DRIVE.

This is only a snapshot of the activities going on around the Joint Council 7 locals. tIn short, we’re firing on all cylinders.