Organizer Pilar Barton joins workers from White Cap as they celebrate the union election they worked hard to win

White Cap Construction Supply

The 65 drivers, warehouse and counter sales workers at White Cap Construction Supply in San Francisco have the union representation that many of them had wanted for 10 years.

A White Cap worker approached the Teamsters just after Christmas and said that he and his co-workers wanted to organize. Joint Council 7 Organizing staffer Pilar Barton met with a small group to explain what was involved in a campaign. They decided to move ahead and began by identifying leaders, building the committee, and training the workers about the anti-union tactics they could expect to see from their employer.

Most of the workers come from Nicaragua and El Salvador, two countries which have very different histories with unions. In Nicaragua, laborers and factory workers were encouraged to unionize, so these workers were accustomed to strong unions and a powerful labor movement. On the other hand, in El Salvador, union organizing can sometimes be punished with death. These workers understood that the bosses would stop at nothing to break the power of worker unity. In both cases, the workers never waivered.

“These workers have remained closer than brothers," " explains Barton. “The solidarity that developed amongst these men has continued to keep them going, to keep supporting one another, and to do so with class, sophistication, intellect and heart."

Once they collected union election cards from a majority of the employees, the workers put on “union yes" pins and went to their bosses to demand an election. “The bosses went crazy and tossed us out," says Barton. “Then they hired three union busters who proceeded to conduct anti-union meetings and to talk down the union as they worked alongside the workers. One worker was hit by a manager and another had a box thrown at him."

While the union had initially petitioned to represent only 42 of the workers, the company asked for 65 workers to be part of the unit. The Labor Board went along with the company. “This meant we were trying to organize a new group of employees with whom we had little contact-including three who don't even work at the San Francisco facility and have no interaction with those who do."

Even after all of the employer's shenanigans, on Friday June 20, the employees at White Cap voted by 31-29 to join Teamsters Local 853. The union challenged the votes from the three employees who work at a different facility, and on July 22, the Labor Board ruled that those votes should be tossed out. “The employer was trying to pull a fast one, but even the Labor Board saw through it. These workers wanted union representation and they did what it took to get it."

“We welcome these new members to the Teamster family. They fought hard to get union representation and clearly they know what it's worth. We look forward to bargaining on their behalf," said Secretary-Treasurer Rome Aloise.

MV Transportation

For years, the workers at the MV Transportation facility in San Leandro wanted union representation. While the paratransit company did all it could to fend off Local 78's organizing efforts, the company's corporate parent negociated a national contract in 2007 with the IBT that included card check recognition and neutrality. “This was a green light for us to go in and ask people if they wanted to sign union cards. Once we reached a majority, the company would have to recognize the union," explains Organizer Jesse Casquiero.

“We went in and quickly got the magic number of cards signed among the 150 drivers, 11 mechanics, and about 30 employees who work in dispatch and residual units."

Business Agent Efren Alarcon says that Local 853 “anticipates representing the employees under the terms of the national contract. We'll fine tune it to meet the needs of the San Leandro division, but we'll mainly focus on getting a good economic package for our new members." The first bargaining session, initially set for July, was rescheduled to August 7.

Alarcon added that the company is disputing the union status of the workers in residual units. “They thought only the drivers and mechanics would be joining the union. But nobody told our organizers or those workers who want union representation. If the company doesn't just recognize those workers, we may end up taking them through an election."

Aramark Managed Systems at San Jose State

After hearing about Local 853 on Spanish radio station KLOK in San Jose, workers at Aramark Managed Systems who do the janitorial work at San Jose State called for help to get union representation.

“Our organizers, Frank Harms and Stacy Lavelais, met with the workers and explained the organizing process. Together, they got cards signed, filed for and held a union election. On May 2, the 23 employees voted by a two to one margin to join the union," says Business Agent Lou Valleta. “These workers had some real horror stories, including sexual harassment. That's why they wanted a union."

Bargaining started in July and is being led by Local 853 Business Agent Ron Paredes.


Managed Systems
at San Jose State

Aramark bargaining committee members Pascual Hernandez, Gregoria Estrada and Juan Manuel Velasquez.

Aramark bargaining committee members Pascual Hernandez, Gregoria
Estrada and Juan Manuel Velasquez.