Joint Council 7 goes big — and wins big — in November election


The merger of Joint Councils 7 and 38 in 2010 united more than 100,000 Teamsters in 23 local unions covering a vast territory—50 of California’s 58 counties and all of Northern Nevada. Despite this, our 2010 endorsement list was only two pages long. We made endorsements in most of the federal and statewide races, but at the local level – city councils, county boards of supervisors, school boards, and ballot measures – we mostly stayed out. Why was that a problem?   

Simply put, if we want to deliver the strongest contracts for our members and organize new workers into our union, we need political support to do it. At the end of the day, it’s about having the power to get employers to say “yes” when they want to say “no.”  On top of that, every day elected officials make decisions that impact our neighborhoods, our schools, and more. City and County governments have responsibility for affordable housing, maintaining our streets and setting local taxes. If we don’t get involved in electing people at the local level, we have no right to complain when they make decisions we don’t like. 

Finally, most politicians in Sacramento and Washington DC got their start at the local level. The Teamsters work hard to build those relationships from the beginning and stick with people that stick with us over the years. Loyalty is important.

Since 2010, Joint Council 7 has made a big push to get more involved in politics at the local level, interviewing and endorsing candidates and taking positions on local ballot measures. We’ve done this on our own and with Central Labor Councils and Building Trades Councils. 

I am proud to report that this November our endorsement list grew to 20 pages long. That’s a 900% increase from 2010. We endorsed 338 candidates and 43 ballot measures and won almost 70% of the races!

Equally important, four Teamsters won election to public office!  This is unprecedented in the history of Northern California Teamsters. 

Here are highlights from the November election: 

Joint Council 7 Teamsters elected to office

Teamsters Local 856 continues to lead the way in this area by helping elect three of their members to public office. In Marin County, Lori Frugoli won her bid to be Marin County District Attorney, a seat that impacts 856 members who work for the County. Esther Lemus beat out three incumbents in securing a seat on the Windsor Town Council. 

In Richmond, Demnlus Johnson won a seat on the City Council. Demnlus is a member of Local 856 and his dad and brother are both members of Local 70. He joins his fellow Local 856 sister Jovancka Beckles on the Richmond City Council, who ran a hard-fought grassroots campaign for the 15th Assembly District, finishing second in the race. Teamsters Local 315 also worked hard on both of these races. In Richmond, Teamsters at Republic Services work under that city’s franchise agreement.

Over in Salinas, Teamsters Local 890 helped elect their Business Agent, Juan Cabrera, to the Salinas Valley Memorial Healthcare System Board in Zone 3. 

Three other Teamsters ran for office this cycle, but unfortunately didn’t win. They are Felix Martinez from Teamsters Local 70, Cesar Lara of Teamsters Local 890, and Corean Todd, a former member of Teamsters Local 2010. All three should be commended for stepping up and volunteering for public service.

Along with Alameda Vice Mayor and Teamsters Local 856 staffer Malia Vella, we now have seven active Teamster members elected to office in Joint Council 7!

Across California, elected officials are starting to reflect the diversity of our great state. All of the Joint Council 7 members who ran for office were women and people of color. 

Central Valley takes back Congressional seats

Nationwide, Democrats captured 40 seats in the U.S. House of Representatives. Here in California, they took seven seats, with Republicans holding only seven of our 53 congressional seats.

In the Modesto area, Congressman Jeff Denham has long been a thorn in the Teamsters side as he led multiple efforts to take away meal and rest breaks from truck drivers. While we failed to unseat him in the last two elections, I’m happy to report that the third time’s a charm, as Josh Harder was elected in this seat. Locals 439 and 601 put in a lot of work to support his campaign.

Down farther south in a district that stretches from Fresno to Bakersfield, TJ Cox won his election to the 21st Congressional District. He took out Congressman David Valadao, who repeatedly voted to overturn regulations that protect workers health and safety on the job and that protect the right to organize a union and negotiate a contract. Teamsters Local 431 was very involved in this campaign.

California leads the way

Joint Council 7 went all in for Gavin Newsom, our next Governor. We’ve had a strong relationship with him since his time of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors and we expect big things from him.

Democrats also captured the largest majority of seats in the state legislature they’ve held since 1883, with roughly 75% of the seats in the Assembly (60 out of 80) and the Senate (29 out of 40).

Local 890 pushed hard to help Anna Caballero win election to a state Senate seat held by Republicans since 2000. Her seat sprawls from Salinas to Fresno.

Also, out in Fresno, Melissa Hurtado won election to the 14th Senate District, beating Republican Andy Vidak. Hurtado is a former union organizer who also benefited from the efforts of Local 431.

Finally, in Alameda County, Democrat Rebecca Bauer-Kahan upset Assemblymember Catherine Baker. 

With their “super-majority” in place, expect Democrats to work on important issues this year such as wild fires, affordable housing, and fixing the vexing problem of misclassification of workers as independent contractors (instead of employees). Our efforts to fight misclassification at the ports, in construction, and in other core industries were greatly boosted by a California Supreme Court ruling last year (Dynamex) that makes it much harder for companies to misclassify their workers. We are looking to expand on this victory.

The “blue wave” also hits Nevada

Teamsters Local 533 continued their political action in Reno, and this year it paid off big.

 Democrats captured a US Senate seat by electing Jacky Rosen. They also won several statewide offices, including Governor and Secretary of State. Most important for Local 533, Kate Marshall won her race for Lieutenant Governor. Kate’s father and grandfather were both Teamsters!

Democrats also won several seats in the Nevada state assembly and one senate seat. We can expect pro-worker legislation coming to Nevada!

Big wins at the local level

Finally, we enjoyed many victories at the local level. Teamsters had “clean sweep” – meaning all of the candidates we endorsed won – in San Francisco, Daly City, Oakland, Alameda, Dublin, Newark, Livermore, Emeryville, Concord, Pittsburg, Walnut Creek, Bakersfield, Merced, Atwater, Carmel, Marina, Lodi, Pacifica, Belmont, San Carlos, San Jose, Patterson, Waterford, Butte County, and Tuolumne County. We also had big wins in many school districts, special districts, and with local ballot measures. 

In addition to the local unions I’ve already mentioned, Teamsters Locals 350, 665, 70, 87, 948, 137, and 2010 also worked hard this election cycle.

Making it all work

All of this costs money, and we contributed more to our endorsed candidates this election cycle than ever before. That is why it’s so critical that members contribute to our political action fund DRIVE (Democrat, Republican, Independent Voter Education). DRIVE is funded through voluntary contributions that are deducted from your paychecks. With these contributions, we help elect politicians who will stand with us to protect our wages, working conditions, and pensions. With the amount of corporate money in politics, every penny counts. Look for a DRIVE campaign coming to you soon or contact your Business Agent to get signed up.

Trish Suzuki Blinstrub, Political Director