Local 853

Taking care of laid-off Amy\’s Kitchen workers

Teamsters Local 665 has been working to organize the workers of Amy’s Kitchen in Santa Rosa for many months. Unite HERE was working on an organizing drive with the San Jose group. Suddenly, on July 18, with no warning, the company closed the manufacturing operations at its San Jose facility effective immediately.

Upon hearing the news, Business Rep Ray Torres contacted two union employers that he knew were looking for employees. Within two days, T Marzetti, the salad dressing maker in Milpitas, organized a hiring event. They invited Amy’s Kitchen employees to tour the facility and interview, and by the end of that day, they hired about 30-35 workers. A few weeks later, Kellogg’s did the same thing and brought in 25-30 new workers.

“People’s lives were turned upside down. Even though 300 lost their jobs, we were immediately able to help about 50 of them get good jobs. And though we weren’t actually conducting any of the union drives at Amy’s Kitchen, now those 50 people are Local 853 members,” Torres says with pride. “This is what we do!”

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Serving the members in Watsonville & Santa Cruz

On June 8 and July 6, Local 853 brought its barbeque to Watsonville and Santa Cruz literally to serve the members! The Local held BBQs at Watsonville Hospital, where about 24 members came out; the HA Rider bottling plant, where they fed 50 members, and at Driscoll’s (Fruit & Vegetable Growers, Packers & Shippers), which had the largest turnout, with about 100 members.
The three groups of workers had been in Local 912, which merged with Local 853 in 2021.

“We wanted to acclimate our members to Local 853,” said Business Rep Steven Lua. “When we merged last year, with the pandemic still raging, we really didn’t get a chance to do membership appreciation for the companies in Santa Cruz and Watsonville.” Lua says his goal was to introduce the members to Local 853 and to let them know what the local is about. “This Local puts members first. We wanted to show the members our appreciation for their first year in Local 853.”

Lua also wanted to thank the Business Reps who attended the events and fired up the barbecue. This includes Steve Beck, Ray Torres, Ralph Campos, Santos Lerma, Mike Henneberry, Cesar Martinez, and Trustee Reggie Knighten.

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Premier Recycling votes Union YES!

About 35 drivers who work for Premier Recycling in San Jose voted Union Yes in May. These drivers drop off and pick-up recycling bins at construction sites.

“This was a dog fight,” says Business Rep Pablo Barrera. “The company brought three union busters to the worksite—and they’re still there. But we still won the election handily.” Barrera says that management kept telling the drivers, ‘If you don’t like it here, get another job,’ but they really just wanted to work at this job, and make it better.”

Roman Tamez, who works for UPS, just down the block from Premier, helped organize the Premier group; he brought several UPSers to share their stories about being in the union with the Premier group. “This was a great campaign,” Roman says. “These guys were getting treated unfairly; they were harassed if they needed to take a sick day. As election day got closer, the employer kept throwing out deals, but nobody bit. They didn’t feel they could trust any promises the employer made at that point. They moved as one group and overwhelmingly voted for the union.”

Negotiations for a first contract will start the last week of August.

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Argent Materials drivers organize and ratify first contract

The employees at Argent Materials in Oakland unanimously voted for union representation in November 2021 and in August 2022, their first contract was signed, sealed, and delivered.

These workers are dump truck drivers who pick up broken-up concrete and bring it to a recycling yard and they deliver construction aggregate products. “Their first-time agreement includes increases to wages, health and welfare through the Teamster Benefit Trust, and contributions into the Western Conference of Teamsters Pension Trust Fund, and much, much more,” said Business Rep Stu Helfer.

“I’d like to give thanks to all of the members at Argent for their support during the negotiations – and their ability to stay out of trouble so that they got a great contract,” Helfer added.

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Sharpening pencils brings up First Student drivers\’ wages

The contract for the 60 school bus drivers at First Student in San Jose had expired in August 2020, but because COVID was hot and heavy, the union decided to do an indefinite extension. “We had no idea what was going on in the world,” says Business Rep Tracy Kelley. “Schools shut down in March and never re-opened. Students were distance learning for more than a year, and there was no bus service at all. Would it ever re-start? At that point, we had no idea what the future held.” Kelley adds that this unit was already underpaid by the industry standard, and being unable to work just added insult to injury.

In October 2021, the drivers were back to work and it seemed like things were moving in a positive way, so Kelley opened up the contract for negotiations. “Our members turned down the company’s first offer because it was so sub-par,” Kelly explains, adding that he advised the company to try to get more money out of the school district. “We met with the company again and they sharpened their pencils and presented us a much better offer, proving significant increases from where they started.” Even though the union would like to see significant increases in the future, the members passed the contract unanimously in June.

Many thanks to Lupe Avalos and Lucy Seramento who did a great job representing their co-workers at the bargaining sessions.

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Historic wage increases at Pak N Save

The 175 employees at these two stores ratified their new five-year contract in June and will collect historic wage increases, while the union succeeded in eliminating some steps in the wage progression.

“Our members do everything—from being head clerks to utility clerks to meat clerks—they were the ultimate essential workers,” says Business Rep Jonathan Pinney. “The industry offered $2/hour ‘hazard pay’ raises during the pandemic, but then withdrew those quickly, even as the pandemic lingered for another few years. At least now, they can begin to catch up to where they should be.”

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Hertz – Oakland Airport – Big boost in hard-hit industry

If you rent a car from Hertz at the Oakland Airport, likely it will have been serviced by Teamster members. Thirty Local 853 members work as Vehicle Service Attendants who wash and detail returned rentals, and Tire and Lube Mechanics who change the cars’ oil and tires, and do basic maintenance.

These members and the whole airport car rental industry were hard hit during the height of the pandemic when airport travel dropped to almost zero. But as travel has gotten busy again, these workers needed a raise, and they definitely got one.

Business Rep Jonathan Pinney reports that the negotiations took nine long months. “The members will get a very substantial raise over the three-year contract duration, with a huge boost the first year. They also got large checks representing nine months of retro pay.” They’ll also see increases to their pension and vacation benefits while maintaining the current cost-sharing on the Teamsters health plan.

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Student Transportation of America (STA) drivers to get more, faster

The 75 members at STA in San Jose ratified their new three-year contract in July. “In addition to getting substantial raises each year, they doubled their number of sick days, from the bare minimum of three up to six; and they squeezed what was a 10-year progression to achieve the top wage rate down to five, getting them to the top wage rate that much quicker,” says Business Rep Jerry Cordova.

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Tech Bus Contract opened for 800 members

The master contract just opened for about 800 bus drivers who work at four companies (Hallcon, WeDriveYou, Compass, Mosaic) and shuttle employees to their offices in the Silicon Valley from across the Bay Area and the Valley. Their first meeting was in July, and many more are slated for September. The contract has been extended until the end of September. Watch this space for more news.

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Experience brings results at Kellogg\’s

In 2021 and 2022, the workers at the Kellogg’s facilities in Nebraska, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, and Kansas had to go on strike for nearly three months to get a decent contract. When the contract at the Kellogg\’s Eggo Waffle facility in San Jose was due to expire in June, that recent history was all too real for the 150 Local 853 members and Business Rep Ray Torres.

“It took a lot of internal organizing and educating the membership for at least a year before the proposals even started,” said Chief Steward Eric Calderon. “We knew we had a long, hard fight ahead of us. But we also knew that the company was fearful of us taking the same position that the mid-west locals had.” Fortunately, with two strike authorizations in hand, no strike was necessary and, in May, the members ratified their best contract ever.

The four-year contract includes substantial annual wage increases, maintenance of benefits for the health and welfare for the life of the contract, and significant pension contribution increases. It also includes a slew of additional benefits, like company-supplied tools, additional sick days, a jury duty benefit, more sick leave, better bidding language, and more.

“We had a strong committee of five stewards with more than 120 years of service at the company,” Torres adds. “Not only are they experienced stewards, but they also know the ins and outs of this company. At our opening bargaining session, we learned that the management side had less than 10 years experience at the company, combined.”

Torres says that after the members rejected the company’s first offer, “we gave them one more chance to sweeten the deal with a two-hour zoom negotiating session. At the end of that session, we had a recommended offer.”

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