Local 853's 2007 Membership Appreciation Meeting packs them in!

December 2007 -- Connections

Photo of audience at 2007 Membership Appreciation Meeting
Members pack the John Muir Middle School gymnasium

Local 853's Membership Appreciation meeting on November 5 was the biggest yet. More than 530 members signed in for the event at the John Muir Middle School in San Leandro.

Photo of Victor SaldanaEvery member who attended the meeting received a Teamster tote bag and sweatshirt as a thank you for their involvement in the union. About one in five attendees won a raffle prize -- either a Teamster jacket, a small electronic item like i-pod speakers or a DVD player, or one of two 26" television sets. The grand prize was a 37" TV with a surround-sound system.

Photo of Rome Aloise, Tony Santos, and Carl McGeeSan Leandro Mayor Tony Santos welcomed the group to his city, and reminded members who live in San Leandro that he has a weekly coffee chat with residents on Thursdays, from 10-noon.

Before giving his year-in-review report, Secretary-Treasurer Rome Aloise introduced Marc Miyashiro to make a presentation about the new website. "Our goal is to become fully interactive and so far, we're just getting started. Photo of Marc MiyashiroAt this point, we've changed the look and made the site more user-friendly." Miyashiro took the group on a tour of the website, showing off its ease of use and the many categories of information available -- from general news about labor and the Teamsters, to specific news about what's happening at 853, to frequently-asked questions, contacts for information about benefits, and more. "We want to increase member access to information about the Local and we want to increase member-to-member conversations."

Aloise started his remarks by reviewing the numerous industries now represented by Local 853 -- from dairy and liquor to warehouses, from newspapers and printers to construction. "We should appreciate each other in this Local, because when we work together, we win together."

Photo of Rome Aloise addressing the membershipThe first issue Aloise addressed was the 18-month struggle with Graniterock's owner, who is "using his economic wherewithal to try to bury our members." The union has filed numerous unfair labor practice charges against this employer and the members have gone on a few one-day strikes. "We'll continue fighting until we win, and we'll win because of our members," Aloise added.

Aloise then reviewed the recent mergers of three Locals into Local 853, bringing in nearly 800 more members. "This adds to our strength, diversity and assets. It's a real credit to our Local that the members and leadership of these other unions want to join with us."

In addition to mergers, Local 853 is also growing the old-fashioned way -- through organizing. In September, 120 drivers at Reliable Trucking ratified their first union contract. "This was a two-year effort. The company not only battled the union, they battled their own employees. These drivers stood tough in the face of harassment and we welcome them into our Local." Several Reliable drivers attended the meeting and were given a standing ovation.

Contracts and politics

As most members are aware, health and welfare costs are the biggest problem in every contract negotiation, with most plans costing $6-7/hour. A portion of these premiums cover the uninsured. "We have got to elect represenatives who will fix the health care crisis -- it's not just a problem for the uninsured, but for those of us who are insured as well," Aloise explained. "That's why we've increased our DRIVE sign-ups and will push voter registration. Corporations outspend unions by at least ten to one. Money is the mother's milk of politics. Because we cannot use union dues money to contribute to politicians, we need voluntary contributions. Without politicians to do what we need them to do, we're sunk."

Speaking of money, Aloise gave a quick review of the Local's retirement benefits. "Our 401K plan has more than $400 million -- making it one of the nation's largest plans. The Pension trustees had to lower the accrual rates five years ago when the stock market lost money, but with investments now running at $34 billion, the trustees are pleased to be able to raise the accrual rate in January."

Just a few of the more than 100 contracts negotiated in 2007 include Costco, our biggest single group of members; Young's Market/Southern Wine and Spirits, which was that industry's best economic agreement in 15 years; Dreyer's Ice Cream, which unsuccessfully tried to gut the WCT pension. "Our staff stays busy, negotiating 10-12 contracts each month."

Aloise closed by remembering his dad, who died earlier this year. "This is the first meeting he's not in the audience taking notes so he can brief me on what I should have done differently!"

Aloise then told the group that he's proud of the union and of serving as its Executive Officer. "We've become stronger and larger. If anyone wants to take us on, they'll have to fight our money and all of you!"

Photo of Michael Watts Photo of Trustees and business reps helping raffle winners Photo of Terry Post

See more pictures from Membership Appreciation 2007.