By Rome Aloise, Local 853 Principal Officer
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 staff is second to
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 all the cases have
We have all been dealing with the effects of COVID-19 for over a year now. The pandemic has had a devastating effect on many of our members and their families, with a number of our members passing away due to the virus. Many of our workplaces have been affected adversely and many members suffered layoffs and loss of work. Most of our members work in jobs that are essential to keeping the economy moving, food on the table, medical supplies available, and much more. This year has highlighted to the general public how valuable Teamsters are to the community and society at large. Local 853 and our members have met the challenge. We can see steady improvements as our counties begin to fully reopen; hopefully, things are slowly coming back to normal. I’m pleased to report that, as of this month, our union meetings, which have been held via Zoom for the past year, are now back to being held in person. We hope to see you in person on the second Thursday of each month! Many of our members and employers have called asking about what restrictions or protocols are in place to deal with vaccinations. In my opinion, vaccinations are vitally important for the safety of our members, their families, and their fellow workers. While there may be medical or religious reasons for not getting vaccinated, we at Local 853 strongly encourage our members to get vaccinated as soon as possible. The vaccinations have been proven to be safe and effective, and have dramatically reduced infections and the need for hospital admissions for those
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 this will hurt many of our members whose jobs will be cut back, hours reduced or eliminated, and who will be subjected to the stress and strain of not having an income or benefits. It is a horrible thing to have to face, but hopefully, these next few weeks will
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 teamstersjc7.org/endorsements. 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, I would hope that you will not, like many workers, vote for candidates and propositions that you are told are against your best interests. Let’s look at the current administration in Washington, D.C. I’ve lost count of how many negative changes to the National Labor Relations Act have been implemented.
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.