Photo of Western Eagle workers

Health Care for new Teamsters at Western Eagle Packaging

Teamsters at Western Eagle Packaging Products in Livermore have voted overwhelmingly, 37-3, to ratify a strong first contract, guaranteeing health care benefits and job security, among other gains. The 58 new members of Teamsters Local 853 produce the foam packaging that protects electronics and other products when shipped in the mail.

“We’re very pleased to have negotiated an impressive first agreement for our members. They’ll now have health care for the first time and job protections that they never had before,” said Secretary- Treasurer Rome Aloise.

In addition to medical benefits, the members will now have bereavement leave for the first time, as well as additional paid holidays, overtime, and timely notification of requests to work overtime, and progressive disciplinary language.

The Western Eagle workers voted to join Teamsters Local 853 in the fall of 2013. During their organizing campaign, the workers, many of whom are immigrants, faced intimidation from management. The local filed several unfair labor practice charges during the campaign, including one over the firing of Jose Lopez, a Western Eagle employee.

“I always supported joining the union and was vocal about it. When we came to a vote, that’s when they let me go. They said they didn’t have work for me,” Lopez said.

During the several months Lopez was out of work, he never gave up on his strong beliefs and support for forming a union at Western Eagle. In January 2014, he joined his co-workers in standing out in the rain one early morning, on strike outside the facility.

Photo of picket line at Western Eagle

“Management was surprised this was happening in the middle of the parking lot at 4 a.m. The president wanted to speak with me inside, but I told them I wasn’t going to go into a warm office when our members are standing outside in the rain. We stand together,” said business agent Ray Torres. “The strike lasted six hours before management agreed to stop the intimidation of our members that caused us to walk out.”

After Local 853 filed ULP charges over Lopez’s termination, the company brought Lopez back. He was hired on as a full-time truck driver and got a raise in his new position.

Lopez and his co-workers are excited to now have a contract that allows them to do a good job, while protecting them.

“Every day I wear my Teamster colors— my Teamster jacket or shirt,” Lopez said. “I’m proud to be a Teamster.”

Torres wanted especially to thank the organizing committee at Western Eagle for their courage, and Business Agent Dan Varela for all his help and advice.

Children of two Local 853 members win Teamster scholarships

Local 853’s 2014 Joint Council 7 Harry Polland Scholarship recipient is Courtney Van Vliet, a recent graduate from Ripon Christian High School. Courtney's father, James Van Vliet, has been a member of Local 853 since 2011, and works in the ready-mix industry. Courtney will attend Kaplan College for two years. Upon graduation, she will begin her career as a dental hygienist.

Get ready for the 2015 scholarship. Watch your Joint Council 7 newspaper for the announcement (usually in the May/June/July edition). The application, including a two-page essay about the labor movement, is usually due by June 30.

And if you ever think it’s not worth it to apply for Teamster scholarships, you might want to talk to Juan Soto, a Teamster who works at Central Concrete in Hayward. His son Austin just won a $10,000 James R. Hoffa scholarship through the IBT. That will prove mighty helpful as Austin’s tuition comes due at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo.

Local 853 congratulates Courtney and Austin for doing the hard work to earn their scholarships. “We offer both of them best wishes for college,” said Local 853 Vice President Bo Morgan. “But be sure to remember where that scholarship money came from!”

Closing the circle at Coke and Pepsi

The 12 salespeople at Pepsi’s Sunnyvale facility are now members of Teamsters Local 853 and they have their first contract. “I’m proud to say that they ratified it unanimously,” says Business Agent Jesse Casqueiro. “We welcome the salespeople into the Local and the Teamsters.”

And, nearby at Coca Cola’s San Jose facility, 35 warehouse loaders are now members of Local 853. “These folks were members of Local 856,” Casqueiro adds. Now, as of April 1, we represent everybody at the facility.” This group includes drivers, merchandisers, and warehousemen.

New First Transit contract brings largest wage increases

In March, the 130 paratransit drivers who transport the elderly and disabled at First Transit in Alameda County, ratified a new four-year contract. In it, they got the largest wage increases in the history of this agreement—ranging from 25-40% over the four year period.

“It took organizing the workers at MV Transportation to get this deal,” says Local 853 Business Agent Adolph Felix. “By organizing First Transit’s competition and successfully raising those workers’ wages, we finally had some leverage.”

Getting the attention of Sysco workers

Local 853 members and staff leaflet Sysco's Fremont yard as part of the August 21 National Day of Action around US Foods, to tell the workers that being a Teamster is the only way to go.

Say "no" to sugar tax in SF & Berkeley

If you live in San Francisco or Berkeley, watch out for the Sugar Tax that will be on the ballot in both cities this November. The tax is 2¢ per ounce in San Francisco and 1¢ per ounce in Berkeley and will be charged not only on soda, but also on hundreds of drinks including juices, sports drinks, certain teas, and more.

The San Francisco tax requires a two-thirds vote, because the money is designated to special programs. The Berkeley tax only needs 50% plus one, because the money is going into the general fund.

Both of these taxes are JOB KILLERS! Many of these products are produced, warehoused, delivered and merchandised by Teamsters.

We urge you to vote NO on the sugar taxes!

Major back pay settlement for SF drivers

In the course of negotiating a strong new three-year agreement with the City of San Francisco, the 180-200 Teamster construction truck drivers achieved a very important grievance settlement. For many years, these drivers have been fighting for the right of “as needed” and “temp” drivers to move from Step 1 to Step 2 once they’ve worked 1,360 hours. By changing to the next step, their pay would increase by 10%. Currently, all too many drivers are considered temps for years, and get paid $4/hour less than their “permanent” counterparts who are doing the same work.

“We estimate that 43 employees will be splitting at least $257,000,” says Local 853 Business Agent Dan Harrington. “We agreed that the City would pay 70% of the gross amount of back pay owed, which came to $367,000. That number will continue to increase every hour until the Board of Supervisors signs and seals the deal.”

“The most important thing,” Harrington adds, “is that we secured language in the contract that moves the ‘as needed’ and ‘temp’ drivers up to Step 2 and full pay after they’ve worked 1,360 hours, whether or not they are called permanent employees. We’ve sought this language for many contracts and finally got it.”

The grievance was filed in September, 2012 and was resolved in June, 2014. “It was a long battle that ultimately ended in arbitration,” Harrington says. “But the final result was well worth the effort.”

In addition to the settlement, the contract calls for raises of between 8.5% and 9.5% over three years and, for the first time, stipulates that the City must take responsibility for tickets, such as, if the City requires a driver to take out an oversized load and the driver gets a ticket, the City must pay. 

AC Transit orders more buses from Gillig

Since Teamsters got involved and helped elect our candidates to the AC Transit board, that agency dropped the Belgian company they were buying buses from and have ordered 187 Gillig buses! One of the Board members we elected is Mark Williams, son of a retired Local 853 member! This one order will keep our 500 members at Gillig working for a significant amount of time. 

Construction Teamsters busy with pipeline work

The 2010 gas pipeline explosion in San Bruno was nothing less than a complete disaster. It killed eight people and wreaked untold property damage in the small suburban community.

However, there is a silver lining. Local 853’s construction workers have been working non-stop to replace and test gas pipelines in every city throughout the Bay Area. “Over the next five years, millions of miles of pipeline will need to be tested and replaced,” says Business Agent Stu Helfer. “We’re back to the 2008 level of construction work at Local 853.

Helfer adds that the members overwhelmingly ratified a new three-year National Pipeline Agreement. “The wages are very similar to what’s in our AGC agreement, and that’s a good thing.”