Collage of Local 853 members

Author: Local 853

Counting votes over zoom

The pandemic has changed how many union processes are conducted, including elections and vote counting. On March 29, Business Rep Mike Henneberry and Chief Steward Vanessa Wadley counted the ballots that members who work at Zenith Administrators in Alameda submitted on the issue of restructuring and strengthening their pension plan. But this time, they did the vote count over Zoom. The issue arose after the employer messed up the payments owed to the pension plan. “This gave the union an opportunity to re-look at the plan and restructure it,” said Henneberry as he finished the count. The vote will impact the pensions of 57 members who work at Zenith. Since almost 98% of the work at Zenith is being done remotely, the vote was conducted by mail ballot. Henneberry opened the outer envelope and separated out the ballots, which had been concealed in an inner envelope with no identifying information. He then counted the ballots by reading out the vote for the vote tallier (Communications Director Debra Chaplan). He then showed each ballot to Vanessa, who was on zoom. The final tally was overwhelmingly in support of the union’s recommendation of how to strengthen the pension plan. After informing the

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Polland/Morales Scholarship—Deadline July 1

Please see the link below for information about the Joint Council 7 Scholarship Program. Scholarships are available to the children and grandchildren of active Local 853 members who are in good standing and will be based on a combination of academic achievement, school and community service, and financial need. In addition to completing the application form, the student must also submit a two-page essay on the topic: “The Importance of Labor Unions.” Applications must be received by Local 853 by July 1 of each year for the next academic year. Be sure to print out, complete, and sign the application form, and submit with essay and a recent photo of the applicant. Application form:  Polland Morales Scholarship  

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Local’s Union Hall becomes vaccine clinic for a day

Local 853’s Oakland union hall was turned into a vaccine clinic on Saturday, March 27. The Alameda County Central Labor Council, a co-tenant in our building, brought together their affiliated unions to do outreach to their members. In all, 430 union members were excited to get the Johnson & Johnson “one and done” vaccine. “This event was about union solidarity at its best,” said Local 853 Secretary-Treasurer Rome Aloise. “Even though we could only serve a handful of Local 853 members, we were part of a much bigger event that helped union members in Alameda County and throughout the Bay Area.”

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President makes forceful statement in support of union representation; Teamsters respond with pride and hope

In a remarkable video statement supporting the right of workers to join unions, recorded on February 28, President Biden has completely upended not only his predecessor but almost every president over the last century. The statement was released as nearly 6,000 workers at an Amazon warehouse in Alabama are voting in a union representation election. www.youtube.com/watch?v=aZpUD9KgYc4&feature=youtu.be “I have long said that America wasn’t built by Wall Street; it was built by the middle class…and unions built the middle class. Unions put power in the hands of workers. They level the playing field,” Biden said in the opening to his two-minute statement. “They give you a stronger voice for your health, your safety, higher wages, protection from racial discrimination and sexual harassment. Unions lift up workers, both union and non-union and especially black and brown workers.” The statement asserted that the National Labor Relations Act is about encouraging unions, not just tolerating them. “Every worker should have a free and fair choice to join a union. The law guarantees that choice. And it’s your right, not that of an employer, it’s your right. No employer can take that right away.” In response, Local 853 Principal Officer Rome Aloise stated in a

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After push by union, paratransit drivers are deemed “first responders” – eligible for COVID vaccine

Since the pandemic began, paratransit drivers who transport the sick, the elderly, and the disabled in small buses have been at great risk for COVID. After a plea from Teamsters Union and the San Francisco paratransit company TransDev, the City and County of San Francisco agreed that these workers should be considered “first responders” and are now eligible to get the vaccine. On January 19, Transdev announced that the plea was heard and its 72 Teamster drivers, bus aides, and road supervisors will now be prioritized to receive COVID vaccinations. “Many paratransit riders are from high-risk communities, such as the elderly and the disabled…who require close physical interaction with their drivers,” said Teamsters Western Region Vice President and principal officer of Teamsters Local 853 Rome Aloise in a letter to Governor Gavin Newsom when seeking a similar designation for paratransit drivers statewide. “The vast majority of our members have been working in the field since the pandemic started; they work in warehouses and manufacturing, they drive trucks and make deliveries, they work in construction. However, the transportation bus drivers are the hardest hit, as they do all of their work with numerous passengers in the confined space of a bus,”

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Using PLAs to get work at SFO

The concrete work at the San Francisco International Airport (SFO) is covered under a Project Labor Agreement (PLA). “Unions work hard to get PLAs on big projects because they create a level playing field for wage rates,” says Business Rep Stu Helfer. “It means that non-local companies can’t come to the expensive Bay Area and underbid the local wages and conditions.” Helfer adds that he’s been able to make language improvements in the PLAs, leveraging that language for improved coverage. As part of the union’s routine monitoring of construction work in the area, Helfer noticed that Elite, a Sacramento-based company, had set up a portable batch plant for the SFO project and had started doing work there. “We’ve dealt with them before,” he says, “each time, discovering that they were underpaying their workers based on California state’s prevailing wage rates.” Helfer says that the union started monitoring this job and collecting data on it. He adds that the union has had to utilize some creative methods for monitoring when the work is going on, because it’s all behind security fences that the union can’t get through. As a result of Local 853’s labor compliance monitoring and research, the 15 drivers

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Hoffa Scholarships available now for high school seniors

Deadline: Extended to March 8, 2021 The deadline for this year’s James R. Hoffa Memorial Scholarship Fund (JRHMSF) Academic and Vocational/Training Program scholarship applications is now March 8. The fund looks forward to a record number of applications from high school seniors who are the sons, daughters, or financial dependents of Teamster members. The scholarship awards range from $1,000 to $10,000 for Academic scholarships and $500 to $2,000 for Vocational/Training Program scholarships. The application process is online and can be reached here. Additionally, the JRH Scholarship Fund, through its administration firm, ISTS, offers tuition discounts to various colleges and universities. The information on the tuition discount program can be found here. (The tuition discount program is independent of the JRHMSF and does not require that a student be a recipient of a JRHMSF award.)

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Essential workers keep working through pandemic, but nearly 20% of membership is not

When the pandemic struck in March, the entire economy came to a screeching halt. Travel, hospitality, sports and the arts were the first to shutter. But it was clear that not everything could stop. People needed food, health care, and a variety of services and somebody needed to do that work. Often, those somebodies were Teamsters. Our members working in package and non-restaurant food delivery were working overtime. Retail, like Costco, was booming. Construction was deemed essential as well. And of course, if our members are working, the Local’s Business Reps have to be working, too. On the downside, we predict that as many as 20% of our members have been negatively impacted by the pandemic. Our members working in the concession and sporting industry for the Warriors, A’s, and Giants have been out of work for the entire year. School bus drivers aren’t driving, and only a few of the tech bus drivers have regular work. Those who service the travel and hospitality industry, like laundry workers and those in parking lots and car rental agencies are mostly not working either.    Hopefully, the vaccines that have been produced in record time will start getting distributed—first to health care

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Concrete drivers step up for a co-worker in need

When Jorge Vasquez got cancer, he didn’t want it to stop his daily work routine, because he’s the sole supporter for his wife and son. Business Rep Eddie Venancio reports that Jorge continued to work at Westside Building Supply in San Jose while he was getting chemo treatments. But when Shop Steward Jonathan Pinney, who works at Cemex, saw how sick Jorge was at the worksite, he not only helped Jorge to complete the paperwork to get disability insurance which would enable him to take off work while he was getting treated, but he also started a fundraising drive for Jorge and his family. So far, Pinney and Westside Steward Adolfo Espinosa raised $1,915 from the drivers at Westside, Cemex, Central Concrete, and from and the office staff at Teamsters Local 853. “Jorge is so well-liked that even some of the non-union Bulk drivers donated,” says Venancio. “His only request was that we keep him and his family in our prayers.” Thanks to the support of his brothers and sisters at Local 853, Jorge will be able to go through chemo and recuperate at home for the next three months with his wife—where he should be.

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Looking forward to a better new year

With only a little bit of hesitation, I will say that I am happy this year is finally coming to an end. For all of us, 2020 has been quite a hardship—with new and constant threats to our members and your families. We do have something good to look forward to in the New Year—a new President will be sworn in on January 20, 2021. I must say, from a union standpoint, this gives me hope. The current President has decimated the NLRB, changed interpretations and rules that have been in place for decades—all to the detriment of workers looking to protect themselves by gaining union representation. While the Democrats have not done enough to improve the laws protecting workers (and we know they need to be improved!), they haven’t really hurt us. But this President has intentionally gone out of his way to hurt workers and reward his corporate buddies. That will end. I expect the new administration will do all it can to get legislation that will help all workers protect themselves by making it easier to join a union. Hope springs eternal!  As I write this article, we are again entering into another Covid-19 shutdown. We know

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