California’s Central Valley is a battleground within the state. Home to over 6.5 million people, in the last few decades huge changes have to come to the area as farm land gave way to new housing, industry, and growing cities. Voter registration has changed too, as Republicans and Democrats now roughly equal each other.
Most important for us, new warehouse and distribution centers dot the entire Valley from Bakersfield to Sacramento – many of them non-union. Much of that cargo comes through the Port of Oakland, where the Teamsters have been leading a campaign to organize thousands of truck drivers for the past several years.
But what of the men and women who work in the Valley? One in five people live in poverty, and we all know that a union job is a ticket out of poverty.
Under the leadership of Joint Council President Rome Aloise, we are developing a program to build Teamster power in the Central Valley. This program includes organizing, politics, working in coalition, and increasing member participation.
“Most people don’t know that we’re the largest union in the Central Valley,” said Rome. “We’re waking up the sleeping giant by getting members involved, organizing, and electing politicians who will support us.”
Last month, Teamsters Local 386 in Modesto organized 613 employees in a momentous victory at the CVS Distribution Center in Patterson. The success was covered in the Patterson Irrigator.
Local 386 is also moving an aggressive program to build its political profile. Shortly after the CVS victory, Secretary-Treasurer Gaylord Phillips organized a campaign kick-off for Congressman Dennis Cardoza, who is up for re-election. Congressman Cardoza has been a solid friend of the Teamsters on issues such as cross-border trucking, and he thanked us for our help.
On Sunday, September 19th at 10 am, Assembly Member Anna Caballero is kicking-off her precinct walks at Local 386. She faces a tight race for Senate District 12.
And for Labor Day, Teamsters Local 439’s annual picnic brought out over 1,200 members from Locals 386, 439, 601, and 948. Local 439 Secretary-Treasurer Sam Rosas was joined on stage by a host of Labor leaders and two special guest speakers: Congressman Jerry McNerney and our candidate for governor, Jerry Brown!
Brown’s campaign kick-off was covered by the Stockton Record and KTLX-TV.
Our members want to hear about jobs, and Brown didn’t fail. He reminded the crowd that he created 1.9 million jobs when he was Governor and established collective bargaining rights for state and local employees. On the other hand, Meg Whitman cut jobs and shipped them overseas when she was running eBay. If elected, she plans to lay off 40,000 state workers, take away public employee pensions, and eliminate the collective bargaining rights that Brown created!
One member asked me why Meg Whitman all of a sudden got interested enough in politics to spend $500,000 a day to get elected when she didn’t even vote for 28 years.
We registered 94 voters at the picnic and we’re just getting started!
A big part of our program involves working closely with the North Valley Labor Federation, the newly formed Labor Council representing over 100,000 union members living in the Central Valley. The Council is receiving strong support from our friends at the California Labor Federation, AFL-CIO. If we want to change the way things operate in the Valley, we need to work with our brothers and sisters in the labor movement.
Look for more news in the future!