The summer has come and gone, and we are moving full throttle ahead in Joint Council 7. We’ve started our endorsement process, and I’m proud, excited, and everything in between over how much enthusiasm and ownership each of our Locals have shown in making sure we have a voice in the political arena. These early relationships pay off in big ways for us in paving our future. We need to elect and support candidates that support workers, no matter what party they belong to. That is why we have a mixture of both Democrats and Republicans that we’ve chosen to endorse for the March 2024 Primary.
Again, the one thing I want to reiterate is that we aren’t choosing elected officials based on party, but rather their record and core values. We use the interview and endorsement process to vet the candidates and re-evaluate our current elected officials, to make sure that they are in support of workers. We will support the candidate who will show up to our picket lines, vote for our contracts or on major bills such as AB 316, and who will push the envelope for us to get things done. It’s about the issue and not the party.
AB 316 has exemplified the meaning of bipartisan politics and why we support elected officials who support us. We have had overwhelming support from both the Democrats and Republicans on this bill. In a time when things have become so dogmatic on a national level, an overwhelming majority of California legislators agree that we need to have a licensed safety operator in any AV over 10,000 lbs because it’s about public safety and it’s about jobs. The pathway to get the bill to where it is today was not easy, but collectively the hard work and perseverance of the Locals in Joint Council 7 and Joint Council 42 have boosted this bill forward, and the decision will lay on whether Governor Newsom stands with workers or his elitist tech CEOs.
We talk a lot about politics being local and non-partisan when it comes to worker issues. I want to highlight, Teamsters Local 517 and their Principal Officer Greg Landers. Local 517 was on strike for 42 days. During those 42 days, they had a champion on the Visalia City Council, Council Member Soto, who showed up to picket lines, brought other elected officials to the picket line, and advocated during closed session for our members. This is the type of elected official that we need on our side. He didn’t have a majority of the Council on his side at first, but he kept pushing, supporting, and helping behind the scenes. I should also note that Soto, a Democrat, in the end brought his Republican colleagues to our side because the bus strike wasn’t about political parties, it was about people and the people who provide a valuable service to the community and the City of Visalia.
I want to applaud Greg, who has stated many times how much he hates politics. Greg pushed aggressively on all fronts to get an agreement for his members in a city that is not labor friendly. Greg and the Local 517 membership packed City Council meetings to put pressure on the City Council to get involved in their negotiations, as TransDev is a vendor of Visalia. Greg met with the Mayor, Council Members and the City Manager individually, and he went to different community groups to advocate for their support and to help put pressure on the city to force TransDev to come to a fair deal. He even stated that he never in a million years thought he’d be speaking at the opening of the California Democratic Party Executive Board Convention, which was having their big meeting in Visalia. He did it though, not because he likes the Democrats — he’s not a Democrat — but because it wasn’t about party it was about leveraging all levels to get his workers a fair contract.
To sum this up, I want to emphasize that when our endorsements come out and you see a D or an R next to a name, do not to get turned off by the party, but know that our union has vetted these candidates to find the best pro-Teamster candidate. As workers, the only leverage we have against corporations is to band together and vote as a worker block for the candidates who will support us.