Collage of Local 853 members

Secretary-Treasurer's Report

By Dennis Hart, Local 853 Principal Officer

Photo of Dennis Hart
Dennis Hart, Principal Officer/Secretary-Treasurer

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Local 853 – Racking up the Successes

This is an exciting time for the labor movement. The kinds of companies that seemed out-of-reach to unions just a few years ago are suddenly growing a union presence—from the Starbucks’ baristas at 200 shops and counting, to firsts at Amazon (Staten Island), Trader Joe’s (western Massachusetts), and REI (New York City). While every other institution in America has seen a decline in confidence and support, the union movement has actually seen growth. As the Grateful Dead shared, “You ain’t gonna learn what you don’t wanna know.” There’s a lot to know about your union and our efforts to improve wages, benefits, and working conditions for our nearly 15,000 members. If you scroll through this e-newsletter, you’ll see stories that cover about half of our members: • 800 members who, working for four different contractors and driving buses for the Tech industry have recently started talks. • 1,500 UPS members will be going into contract negotiations. On August 1, we commemorated the 25th anniversary of the 1997 UPS strike and unofficially launched the contract campaign. • Our business reps have gotten renewal contracts at UNFI, Golden Brands, Kellogg’s, Student Transport of America (STA) San Jose, TransDev/San Francisco Paratransit; First Student, Clear Channel Outdoor, and many more—together representing about 1,000 workers. Many of these agreements are record-setting in terms of wages and benefits. • Our efforts have won organizing victories at Argent Materials, Premier Recycling, and Canon Business Services, though the hard work ahead is getting a first contract. So far,

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The Value of Voting

If you’re wondering why it’s important for Teamsters to get involved in politics, here are two reasons. Because of the Biden administration, the pension plan for about 1,000 of our members in the printing industry (formerly of GCC Local 583) has been saved and will not go insolvent as of next month. That’s because the Biden administration inserted the “Butch Lewis Act” into the American Rescue Plan. This Teamster-backed bill provides foundational support for troubled multi-employer union pension plans. City Councils across the Bay Area—from San Francisco to Hayward to Gilroy to Fremont and more—have turned down Amazon’s requests to open mega-warehouses offering little more than sweatshop jobs. Elected officials have stood up to America’s largest single employer saying, “We won’t accept crappy jobs. We want good jobs for our communities!” Be sure to vote in the June primary, and again in the November general election. Your vote matters! Before you vote, check out the Teamster endorsements here. Fighting for UPS Part-Timers In January, some UPS part-timers got a rude awakening in their paychecks. Instead of the $21.50/hour they had grown used to, their wages were reduced to $17.50 or so. This is because the company had raised the wages for the part-timers in many of its metro-area facilities using what was called a “Market Rate Adjustment,” and since that adjustment wasn’t in the contract, they could withdraw it as easily as they gave it. The Teamsters said, “Not so fast,” and organized monthly rallies, first at the impacted facilities,

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Working toward solutions

Every five years, an election is held for the leadership of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters. When long-time president James P. Hoffa announced his retirement, that opened the door for a rousing election between two powerful slates that took place last October. The results were announced in mid-November, and Sean O’Brien, from Boston, takes the reins of the Union starting on March 22. We look forward to working with General President O’Brien and the new General Executive Board. General President O’Brien has a lot on his plate. The UPS contract, which is the Teamsters’ largest single contract covering more than 325,000 members, expires in 2023. It’s of paramount importance that we work closely with the leadership as these talks commence later this year. While we firmly believe that a strike is the option of last resort and we prefer to come to an amicable settlement, our members at UPS should start preparing now for the worst-case scenario. Polls show that support for union membership is the highest that it’s been since the 1950s. This gives the Teamsters, nationally, and Local 853 new opportunities to organize. We know we’ll be looking at organizing Amazon, and we’re closely following the efforts to organize at Starbucks nationwide and here in California. In addition to new leadership at the very top of the Teamsters tree, we have new leadership here at Local 853. (See new officer roster below.) My goal, as your new Principal Officer, is to ensure that we negotiate good, strong contracts

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A new beginning

As I take over as Principal Officer of Local 853, having served as President of the Local for the last several years, I reflect on the brilliant leadership of Rome Aloise, who, as Secretary-Treasurer since 1992, worked to build this local into a powerhouse. He stands down now, but it will be difficult, if not impossible to replace him and his decades of experience and commitment to the Teamsters union. My mission, as Secretary-Treasurer, is to continue where Rome left off, with the goals of organizing and building an ever-stronger union that diligently represents and fights for all of our members, and that strives to bring new workers and industries into the Teamster family. Rome leaves one of the strongest, most financially stable local unions in the nation. Most important, Rome’s commitment was always to the membership first and foremost. We have a strong team of business agents, organizers, and office staff, and we will not skip a beat in terms of servicing our members. As Bob Dylan said, “there is nothing so stable as change.” Together, we will weather the change and come out stronger. I look forward to the challenge.  

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My final column 

By Rome Aloise —  By the end of January, I will no longer be Principal Officer of Local 853. These past 54 years as a Teamster, and 36 years serving as a Teamster official on the local, Joint Council, and International levels, have been an amazing ride. It has been the honor of my life to serve the growing roster of members of Local 853 and to do all in my power to improve your working conditions, wages, benefits, and lives. When I started as Secretary-Treasurer in 1992, the Local had $100,000 in the bank, was renting a headquarters building, and had about 3,500 members, mostly in the East Bay. Today, through organizing and through mergers, we’ve grown to about 15,000 members across the Bay Area down to Watsonville, with some members in the Valley and around Sacramento. We’ve got assets of over $12 million, including several buildings.  But more than that, we have an amazing staff of 24 business representatives who oversee more than 300 contracts in a wide range of industries—from drivers of school, tech and paratransit buses to ready-mix and construction vehicles; from sales to driving and merchandising dairy, soft drinks, and liquor; from retail sales to package delivery to concessions at sports arenas; we manufacture food and commercial products, buses, and more. Our members are as diverse and interesting as our industries. I’m proud to say that in many industries, our contracts are the most lucrative in the nation. On top of all that, our office

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Despite progress, new pandemic threat imperils recovery

By Rome Aloise —  Our local has made great progress over the last few months on renewed contracts. Some have come easily, others were not so easy, but all include improvements in wages, covered costs for healthcare, and where applicable, pension increases. Most of our members who were adversely affected by the COVID pandemic are back to work and business seems to be picking up.  However, we are now faced with a new threat: the Delta variant; which is causing infection rates to again increase, pushing many unvaccinated people back into hospitals, and forcing the rest of us to again have to wear masks in some workplaces and inside locations. While our union protects all of our members, at some point we have to be aware of the science and the facts. I believe it is necessary for all of our members to be vaccinated. I realize that in many ways, this is a no-win position to take, but I have never played politics with what I think is good for our membership, whether it was popular or not. The vast majority of our members are vaccinated, and they believe everyone should be, for everyone’s safety. The members who have religious or health reasons are exempt, and that is both understandable and backed by the courts. However, that leaves a group of our members who, for their own reasons, choose not to take advantage of the protections. There have been court challenges in both the public and private sector, and

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