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.”

Golden Brands – creative thinking gets bigger raise faster

Sometimes (or every time) the union has to get creative. And that just happened in the negotiations for a new contract for the 125 drivers, warehouse workers, and merchandisers at Golden Brands in San Jose.

“We were working on a three-year contract,” says Business Rep Ray Torres. “The company gave us a dollar sum and said that was as high as they could go. But it wasn’t high enough. So we proposed taking that amount of money and getting it in two years instead of three. This way the members get a higher total in a quicker time.”

The members ratified their new two-year contract in June 2022.

UNFI unanimously pass new contract

The 37 drivers at UNFI in Gilroy unanimously ratified their new three-year contract in May. “They’re now making $11 more an hour than before they joined the union three years ago,” says Business Rep Ray Torres, who explained that these drivers deliver organic foods to Whole Foods, Trader Joe\’s, and other organic food markets. “We also locked in their health benefits for the life of the agreement and got annual bonuses to help offset previous insurance increases.”

While the first contract was the union’s way into the door of this company, the second contract was able to correct what the union couldn’t get through the first time. “Our priority for the second contract was to improve picketing language so that our members could take actions on the job site and with customers, and to give me, the business rep, more access to the worksite. Now I have the ability to go to the worksite any time. We won both priorities.”

In addition to substantial wage and pension increases, Teamster members will now get any benefit that the company gives to the non-union employees. “This is huge,” adds Torres. “Immediately, it includes rain gear, safety shoes, and more.” And, the contract shortened the progression to reach “journeyman” pay scale from five years to 18 months. “This means that new hires will get two increases each year — their progression increase, which comes every six months until they reach the maximum level, and their annual increase.”

Torres wanted to recognize Ruben Lopez and Vince Rubacaba who served on the negotiating committee. “Actually, they’ve been there since day one—with the organizing drive, the first contract, and now the successor contract. They’ve been excellent spokespeople for the membership.”

Nice boost in early contract with Clear Channel Outdoor 

When you pass a transit shelter in the East Bay, West Bay, or South Bay, do you ever wonder, “who put that ad up there?” The answer is Local 853 members who work for Clear Channel Outdoor. Our members fix and maintain the transit shelters for MUNI, AC Transit, and VTA.

“It’s not an easy job,” says Business Rep Jesse Casqueiro. “These members deal with everything you see in the streets of our busy urban centers.”  Some members clean the shelters, others post the ads, and still others maintain the shelters themselves. “Basically, we don’t construct them. But once they’re built, we do everything to keep them going,” Casqueiro adds. Clear Channel currently employs about 25 members, and it’s expected that the employer will add a substantial number of new workers to accommodate additional work that’s expected.

In July, the group overwhelmingly voted to ratify their new three-year contract, which included solid wage increases and more money toward the medical plan that took effect upon ratification of the contract. “We wanted to get money in people’s pockets as soon as possible so they would immediately see the value of having a union contract,” Casqueiro explained.

In order to recruit the new workers, the company recognized that they’d have to offer higher entry-level wages. “We let them know that they’d have to give the long-term employees comparable increases,” says Casqueiro. “For the first time in at least 25 years, we started the talks early and finished early.”

Casqueiro wanted to thank Alex Pastor and Randy Spears whose participation on the negotiating committee was instrumental in getting a good deal.