Membership appreciation event continues—pandemic style!

For the past 25 years, Local 853 has held an annual Membership Appreciation event that included breakfast, door prizes, a huge raffle, convenient flu shots, and the opportunity to hear about the State of the Union. Back when it started, the event attracted a few hundred members. Over the years it has grown to bring together more than 800 members at increasingly larger venues.

This year, despite so many pandemic-caused cancellations, Secretary-Treasurer Rome Aloise was determined to find a way to make the event happen safely. While we had to ditch the breakfast and flu shots, all the other aspects of the event took place over the course of two days.

Day One, Saturday, October 31:

Staff gathered at 6:30 a.m. to prepare for the onslaught of cars attending the Drive-Thru gift event at the DoubleTree Hilton parking lot in Newark. Scheduled to start at 9:30 a.m., cars started lining up at 8:00, and the staff was ready. As each car approached the parking lot, staff and volunteers passed out a registration card for the member(s) to complete as they made their way into the parking lot. Once submitted, each member in the car collected the 2020 gift—a beautiful Local 853 backpack stuffed with union-made bakery goods from Bimbo Baking. On their way out of the parking lot, they received more info from the Teamster Horsemen, the charity motorcycle group, and were quickly on their way.

At a few points, the line to get to the parking lot was backed up to the freeway. But, mostly, everything moved swiftly and easily for the 1,000 people who collected backpacks that day.

Day Two, Sunday, November 1:

About 250 members attended the State of the Union meeting and raffle, held over Zoom.

President Dennis Hart opened the meeting with the Pledge of Allegiance and the premiere viewing of the new 4-minute video “Welcome to Local 853.” And then he introduced Rome Aloise.

Rome opened his annual “State of Our Union” speech by recognizing the members: “Many of our members stepped up and are essential workers, delivering food, wine and liquor, working at Costco, at construction sites, and at many other places. You’ve kept our world running. You are real heroes!”

Rome then talked about how the Local’s staff has had to adjust to using Zoom to handle grievances, hold membership meetings, and “whatever’s needed to make sure the members are taken care of during these turbulent times.” He noted that business reps used Zoom to settle historically good contracts in Ready Mix and Construction and achieved excellent extensions in the liquor and beer industries.

The big news of the year included:

• The merger of Local 287 brought new industries and companies to the local, including freight companies, UPS and DHL, bringing our combined membership up to nearly 15,000 members. “I welcome the sisters and brothers and San Jose staff to our family, and thank you for making us all bigger and stronger.”

• The Berkeley Farms bankruptcy—“We’ve lost a cornerstone company in our Local and an iconic name in the Bay Area, and our members are still waiting to get the severance package we negotiated.”

• Another year of devastating fires forced members to be evacuated, and many lost their homes. The Local was able to provide some financial help to let members know that “their sisters and brothers have their backs.”

• Responding to the rash of murders of black men and women by police, Local  853 took a stand to support Black Lives Matter, and proudly displays a banner saying so on our Oakland headquarters. “Diversity, and treating everyone as an equal is why unions matter and, more importantly, why our union is strong.”

“All in all,” he closed, “our Local has the strength and the wherewithal to survive attacks from viruses, employers, the government and anything else that attacks us. Why? Because we believe in unity and loyalty. As long as we stick together and stay loyal to each other, we can beat anything and anybody.”

The Raffle completed the event. Prizes included Galaxy tablets, Chromebooks, HP laptops, and nine televisions ranging in size from 40” to 65”. Shop Steward Rosie Silva, who works for Hallcon and drives a bus for Facebook employees, was on hand to pick the winners. Grand prizes went to members from nearly 20 different companies.

Congratulations one and all!