Teamsters, California labor united in fighting robot vehicles on our roads

As the “Endless Summer of Solidarity” continues into the fall, and the labor movement is flexing its muscles like never before, Teamsters Joint Council 7 continues to lead the biggest battles, taking on greedy tech corporations and other anti-Union employers on every front – and winning!

We are taking on the fight to protect our jobs and safety from dangerous robot vehicles. We moved Assembly Bill 316, which would require a human safety operator on board autonomous vehicles over 10,000 pounds. The bill was supported by three-quarters of California voters, according to a recent poll. It cruised through the legislature with near-unanimous bipartisan support and landed on the Governor’s desk for signature. Thousands of Teamsters and a caravan of Teamster trucks, led by Teamsters General President Sean O’Brien, converged on Sacramento Sept. 19 for a powerful rally demanding that the Governor sign the bill.

Disgracefully, with our jobs, our safety, our very future on the line, Governor Newsom – who was elected to office with Teamsters and labor support – vetoed our bill, choosing to stand with greedy tech companies and robots over workers, human beings and our communities. In Labor we have a saying, “Which side are you on?” We will surely remember that Gov. Newsom was on the wrong side in this critical battle. Meanwhile, this battle has just begun. Teamsters will continue our fight to pass this essential legislation and to protect our jobs from greedy corporations and their robots.

Our Joint Council and our five San Francisco Locals are taking on Waymo and Cruise, whose dangerous robot cars are wreaking havoc in the city and threatening every Teamsters job in parcel delivery. Teamsters came out in force at the Public Utilities Commission hearing to protest the proposed expansion of robot taxi service. Unfortunately, the pro-business members of the PUC Board passed the proposal, despite overwhelming opposition from city leaders and residents. But the battle continues. Teamsters and our allies are moving forward with litigation and legislation to stop this anti-democratic, anti-safety decision.

Just days after the PUC vote, numerous robot taxis froze up around the city due to a technical glitch during a music festival, paralyzing traffic throughout the city. In another incident, a robot taxi blocked an ambulance carrying an injured pedestrian, who tragically died from their injuries. As the city and the nation continue to see the havoc these unsafe robot cars are causing, and coming to understand the disasters they would cause in the event of an emergency such as an earthquake or fire, our fight against their proliferation continues.

Our Union’s fight to win Union rights for Amazon workers continues on multiple fronts. Joint Council 7 Locals came out to support Amazon drivers on strike in Palmdale, Calif., when Local 396 extended their picket lines into our jurisdiction. On multiple days across Northern California, we shut down Amazon’s facilities, backing up trucks as far as the eye could see, showing that the solidarity of the Teamsters Union extends across the country.

In San Francisco, we continue to block Amazon’s plans to build non-Union facilities. With Teamsters support, the Board of Supervisors passed a bill to extend a moratorium on construction of large distribution centers. Our message is clear: If Amazon or any other corporation wants to build in San Francisco, it needs to be a good neighbor, to make the city better, not worse; to create good Union jobs, not poverty in our communities.

Our members at UPS fought for and won a historic contract with unprecedented gains by standing together as Teamsters and showing the company that we were ready to do whatever it takes to win the gains we deserve. Here in Joint Council 7, our members showed strength and unity, signing petitions, rallying, and practice picketing across our jurisdiction. And our members ratified the contract overwhelmingly.

In Visalia, Local 517 members working as city bus drivers at TransDev, went on strike for six weeks against their greedy, anti-Union employer. These 130 brave sisters and brothers walked the picket line every day, sometimes in 110-degree heat. Not a single member crossed the strike line, and not a single bus moved in Visalia for the duration of that strike. Joint Council 7 and our affiliated Locals stepped up to join the picket line, and together donated nearly $100,000 to assist the brave strikers in their fight. Ultimately, we were “one day longer, one day stronger,” and won a contract with the significant gains our members demanded.

Our Locals continue to organize workers into the Teamsters Union. Since the last issue of this newspaper, we have welcomed more than 1,500 new members into Joint Council 7 at the University of California, American Red Cross, in the cannabis industry, and more.

Joint Council 7 continues to build our unity and our strength, in order to win the strongest contracts and the best wages and benefits for workers!


Jason Rabinowitz, President