Organizing Grows in Public and Private Sector
In the past year, Teamsters Joint Council 7 has organized and lifted standards for workers at a rapid pace, welcoming 5,000 new members to the union. Joint Council 7 represents 23 local unions and serves members in Northern California, the Central Valley and Northern Nevada.
“We’ve worked hard, and as a result, we’ve had an unprecedented boom in new organizing. We are the union for high tech shuttle bus workers in Silicon Valley and we’ve negotiated good wages and benefits for them, but we are also the union for public service workers, rail workers, skilled trades workers and more. It’s been another really successful year,” said Rome Aloise, Teamsters Joint Council 7 President.
In December 2016, over 1,000 workers in Butte County Social Services and General Services joined Local 137 in Redding, Calif. This important election victory nearly doubled Local 137’s membership and continues its impressive growth in representing public services workers for the northern part of the state.
Also that month, the 24 drivers, crane operators, groundsmen and mechanics at Pac Rail Services in Oakland voted unanimously to join Local 70. The workers service the Union Pacific Railroad at the Port of Oakland. Local 70 has long represented the workers at the Burlington Northern Santa Fe’s Oakland rail yard, so this is important.
In April, 35 drivers and warehouse workers at Clock Freight in San Francisco voted to join Local 2785, a critical freight organizing victory.
In May, 215 shuttle bus drivers for Chariot in San Francisco joined Local 665. This campaign saw incredible political pressure from San Francisco’s elected and appointed officials to win a card check neutrality agreement for the workers. The contract was ratified this month.
Local 665 followed that up with a long-awaited victory in Sonoma County, organizing over 400 solid waste and recycling workers at Ratto, an employer that had beat back several organizing attempts over the last decade. This was the last major nonunion waste and recycling company in the Bay Area, so it was important for protecting Teamster contracts in other cities. As with Chariot, the new members ratified their contract this month.
In June, more than 1,800 workers at West Contra Costa Unified School District joined Local 856, solidifying Local 856’s position as the largest public employees union in that county and continuing their strong growth.
In September, over 1,200 skilled trades workers from the California State University system, including 518 in Joint Council 7, joined Local 2010. They united with skilled trades workers from several of the University of California campuses. Local 2010 also added 36 new members at UC Merced.
Finally, in October, more than 300 public employees in Marin County who are members of the MCMEA voted to affiliate with Teamsters Local 856, capping 10 years of growth that has more than doubled Local 856’s membership.
Politics played a key role in every single one of these campaigns. For example, in Sonoma County, Local 665 benefited from the hard work that Local 856 has done building relationships with the Santa Rosa City Council as all of the city employees are Local 856 members. And for the first time in Teamster history, Joint Council 7 made endorsements in Butte County elections.
“We’ve been consistently engaged in legislative issues to ensure that we elect political leaders who support working people. This has been a tough year in many ways for workers—the latest joint employer ruling by the NLRB is just one example of what we are up against. While some people and publications were calling last November’s elections the death knell for organized labor, we’ve proven that what workers want and need now more than ever is a union that can organize and get good contracts,” Aloise said.
“All of this political work builds up from the local level. Most state and federal legislators got their start in local government. That is why it’s critical that we endorse candidates, make phone calls and knock on doors for them and contribute to their campaigns. That all comes from our political action fund DRIVE, which stands for Democrat, Republican, Independent Voter Education. Shop stewards or business agents can help with information for members on how they can set up voluntary contributions,” said Doug Bloch, Political Director for Joint Council 7.
Bloch said that on the local level, Teamster-endorsed candidates pushed labor peace and other policies that allowed many of these workers to organize free from any employer intimidation, coercion or retaliation. In Sacramento, Teamsters wrapped up another successful legislative session, helping to win key bills that fund transportation infrastructure and affordable housing and increase transparency for drug pricing, with more pro-worker legislation to come.
“The uncertainty of the times and the growing gap between the ‘haves’ and ‘have nots’ is bringing workers to the Teamsters in greater numbers than we’ve seen in a long time,” Aloise said. “They know there is no better protection on the job than a union.”