Collage of Local 853 members

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

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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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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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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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SF Street Sweepers win big grievances

Business Rep Dan Harrington reports that he won two separate grievances for some San Francisco street sweepers. In the first case, he was able to overturn a 5-day suspension through expedited arbitration, and the member, Annie Romero, got a back pay check covering all five days. In this case, Romero was suspended for participating in an altercation with another employee. However, Harrington contends, the city denied the union the right to represent her and wouldn’t allow her steward into the hearing. The arbitrator found that, because representation was not allowed, the discipline had to be overturned. “It was a good case,” says Harrington. “We stuck to our guns about the representation and we prevailed.” In the second case, a street sweeper, Frank Perez, was assaulted by a citizen. Instead of listening to the members’ side or letting the union represent him, the city immediately put Perez on 30-day suspension. “Just as the case was supposed to go to full arbitration, the City realized that the citizen was lying and that Perez was innocent,” says Harrington. “They backed down and agreed to pay him nearly $10,000 for the wages and benefits he had been wrongfully denied.” Harrington particularly wanted to thank

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Graphic reading "Vote Now"

Vote as if your future depends on it – it does!

You should already have received your 2020 ballot. If you haven’t yet voted, please do so as soon as you can. Use the Guide in this newsletter and see our local recommendations at This edition of Connections is mostly about the election and your union’s recommendations for candidates and propositions. Some of you follow these recommendations without fail, and some, unfortunately, ignore them. I want you to know how and why your union goes about formulating recommendations and taking positions. We have a team that joins other unions in each county to vet and interview candidates for every office. We question them about their positions on the issues that impact workers and their unions. Our job is to let you know which politicians, based on their records in current and previously-held offices, reflect their support for the issues that affect YOU AND YOUR FAMILIES. We need office holders to develop and support laws that protect what we negotiate, and protect you while you are working, including health and safety, workers compensation, lunches and breaks, and more. You should vote to protect your ability to provide for your family first, last, and always. As a member of Teamsters Local 853,

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Statement on the death of George Floyd

From that momentous day in 1968 when Teamster President Jimmy Hoffa stood with Martin Luther King in support of the Memphis garbage strikers, the Teamsters Union has not only stood with Black leaders, but has fought to be all inclusive, making equal pay for equal work, regardless of race, creed, gender or sexual orientation, a cornerstone of what we are about. This is where Teamsters gain their strength. What happened to George Floyd at the hands of the Minneapolis police is murder, and that is what the officer was belatedly charged with. It boggles my mind, however, that the other officers who participated in that murder of this Black man who was lying face down on the asphalt, handcuffed, trying to breathe with a knee on his neck for nearly nine-minutes, have not been arrested for the same crime. These officers, who have a sworn duty to “protect and defend,” didn’t attempt to stop it, in fact, they helped hold Mr. Floyd down until life itself drained from his body; yes, they participated in the act and should be held accountable.

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illustration of coronavirus

Update on COVID-19 for all Teamster members

We have put together a special edition of the Local 853 Connections to make sure you are getting information from your union that, given the current circumstances, is as helpful and timely as it can be. We are experiencing unprecedented and historic times. None of us have seen anything like this and hopefully, we won’t have to experience it again. The threat of COVID-19 is something that many of us didn’t really take seriously at first. As the virus spreads, and our political leaders started to acknowledge its seriousness, our world, as we know it, has experienced incredible changes. Many of our members are working long hours making sure essential items are in place for the general public and for medical facilities. Our sisters and brothers are, in some cases, putting themselves in harm’s way to make sure they are providing the service that they were hired to do, and stepping up in these uncertain times. Many have worked so many hours that when they are off of work, and trying to get the necessities for themselves and their families, everything is gone. They are truly heroes. In fact, Governor Newsom acknowledged the Teamsters Union and our members for doing

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