Gillig and members cut ribbon to new
facility in Livermore

Company stays local to stick with the Teamsters

Photo of employees in front of new Gillig facility

These days, when a company announces that they’re moving to Mexico, or China, or Texas, few people are surprised. When Gillig determined that they had outgrown their Hayward facility, several states made offers to get the company to relocate, and those offers contained lucrative tax breaks and benefits. Ultimately, however, the company decided to stay local. The reason: its productive and cohesive team of workers, all represented by Local 853, who built the company and keep it humming. On June 1, after 80 years in Hayward, the transit bus manufacturer cut the ribbon on its new Livermore facility.

Gillig, which now produces 1,800 buses a year, is the last wholly-owned and built-in-America bus manufacturer. The company was founded in San Francisco in 1890 by Jacob Gillig as a builder of horse-drawn carriages. It was destroyed in the 1906 San Francisco earthquake, and reopened to manufacture car bodies, hearses, trucks and early model buses. By the 1970s, the plant was exclusively making school buses and would work nine months a year on manufacturing and spend the three months of summer on refurbishing and repairing school buses.

In December, 1976, then-organizer (and now Secretary-Treasurer) Rome Aloise won his largest union election to date when, by a margin of 170-10, the employees voted to join Local 853.

“Each department had it’s own seniority list and a person with 10 years could be laid off in one department while a new person could be working in another department. Foremen were allowed to hire and fire who they wanted,” Aloise recalls. “After a 30 day strike, we won a 20% wage increase, the union health and welfare plan that, for the first time, covered the members and their families, establishment of plant-wide seniority, and foremen were made part of the bargaining unit so they could no long do their own hiring and firing.” Aloise adds that in the 40 year history of the contract, there’s only been one strike that lasted one week. “This has clearly been a union success story,” he says with pride.

At the ribbon cutting ceremony, company president Derek Maunus said that Gillig had many choices of where to re-locate, but chose Livermore so as to maintain their current workforce, which has grown to more than 850 people. He also recognized the Teamsters for their political help to obtain a number of variances and waivers so that Gillig could build their state-of-the-art facility right in our area.

The new 600,000-square-foot facility includes a 50,000-square-foot fabrication and assembly building and a 27,000-square-foot final bus prep facility.

“Over the years, the Teamsters have flexed our political muscle to get local transit agencies to buy Gillig buses,” adds Aloise. “By working together to keep the company strong, we’ve been able to grow our membership.” Today, Gillig members are the highest paid automotive manufacturing workers in the nation, exceeding the standard United Auto Workers agreement by $5.00 per hour total package.

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