By a vote of 44 to 1, the members who make all of the Eggo Waffles sold west of the Mississippi went into their contract negotiations with a strike authorization at the ready. The vote took place at a proposal meeting held on January 22 at Teamsters Local 853’s San Jose office.
“We’re tired of being taken advantage of,” said Chief Steward Eric Calderon. “The company has been short-staffed during the pandemic. Everybody’s working double shifts. In fact, people are working 70 hour weeks, on average. It’s crazy.”
Calderon adds that many members live in the Central Valley and have long commutes to San Jose. “After working those long, grueling hours, having a 90-minute commute is a safety hazard. Especially when you have to turn around and come right back in 6 hours.”
Dorothy Flores, the night shift steward, is hoping to see a bigger shift differential. “We see untrained people training new hires. That’s not only unsafe, but it causes burnout of our trained folks.”
Justin Litvack, a workers’ compensation lawyer for the Boxer Gerson law firm, explained that companies survive by pushing workers to the limit. “Sixteen-hour shifts take a toll on your bodies. Like I tell NFL players, ‘you’ve only got one body. Once it gets beaten up, that’s it!’ Litvack advised members that they’ve got to assert their rights and be sure to report any type of injury, no matter how minor, because it might turn into something more down the road.”
Before taking the strike vote, the members in attendance set their priorities for what should be in their new contract. They’re looking not only for wage and pension improvements, but also for career ladders with additional pay for additional responsibility, more sick days, a greater night shift differential, and benefits based on hours actually worked.
Business Rep Ray Torres says that 28 people signed up for the five-person bargaining committee. “This shows the company that lots of people care about these talks.”
Negotiations started in February. Torres reported that when the two sides introduced themselves, the worker side had about 120 years of work experience at this facility. Together, the employer reps didn’t have five years between them. “Clearly they’ve got a lot to learn. But one thing’s for sure, they’ll know that our members are serious about getting a good contract.”