Jose Ramirez has worked for Iron Mountain, a document archiving company, in its Oakland facility for 32 years, but that’s not where the magic is.
He serves as Lead Transportation Coordinator, dispatching drivers each day, and monitoring customer calls to help them solve problems. His territory runs from Eureka at the north, through the Bay Area, and down to Fremont, currently, and San Jose, starting in August, as well as east to Livermore, Tracy, and Madera.
Part of the magic is the people with whom Ramirez works. “They’re diverse – Latino, Filipino, Black. We’ve been working together a long time, and it’s like a family.” He says that his job is not hard, but it can be stressful. “We get customers in a rush, and we have to change up the schedule. But when I go home, I can forget about it.” He adds that he’s been doing it for so long, “it’s like a piece of cake.”
Ramirez has been a union member for 43 years. Before coming to Iron Mountain, he worked at Fleming Foods, doing cold storage on the graveyard shift for 13 years. Mostly, he remembers that it was freezing. “It was great in the summer, but in the winter, you go in in the cold and stay cold throughout the shift.”
He’s served as a steward for a long time and will soon participate in negotiations on his 9th or 10th contract. He’s proud of the work he’s done to improve benefits and working conditions, and especially to fight for members. “One member never got the raise he was due, so we got him a year’s worth of that raise all at once. And I was able to get a few guys their jobs back when the company screwed up.”
“The best thing about the union is that they protect your rights,” he says. “If we didn’t have a union and you did something wrong, you’d be fired in a second. The company has to abide by the union rules set down in the contract.”
So where’s the real magic? Ramirez says his hobby is to do magic shows for parties, weddings, and for the children where his sister works as a daycare teacher. “I dress up in a tuxedo and hat and we have a blast. The kids think it’s real.” And although he had to take a break during the COVID shutdown, he says he also dresses up as Santa Claus and takes that show on the road—to the pre-school, to his company’s warehouses, and to a dialysis center. He’s looking forward to pulling rabbits out of hats and bringing the reindeer down chimneys again soon.