Reliable Trucking -- Teamster Reliable

After two years of organizing, mobilizing, fighting a union-busting campaign, winning an election and slogging through tough negotiations, the drivers at Reliable Trucking finally ratified their first union contract by an 84% margin on Sunday, October 7, 2007.

"This is the largest construction-related trucking company that the Teamsters have organized in decades and we welcome the new members. We hope this will be the spark that starts a resurgence of Teamsters driving construction gravel, dirt, and powder up and down the highways," said Local 853 Secretary-Treasurer Rome Aloise. "We now have a tool to use to organize the rest of these companies and bring them back to the Teamsters -- where they belong."

Back in 2005, Local 853 decided to build its construction division. After much research, Business Agent Stu Helfer targeted Reliable as the first target. He had already been contacted by several Reliable drivers who were interested in unionizing, and he knew that the company was owned by Conco Companies, which has union contracts in some of its other divisions.

Local 853 members join organizing drive

The first step was to solicit authorization cards from the drivers. Helfer led the campaign with major support from Local 853 Organizer Ormar Locklear and Local 137. In addition, as the campaign began to heat up, a number of member-organizers joined in, including Doug Radnich and Joaquin DeAnda from Cemex, Terry Post from Bode and Ken Kerns from the SF Chronicle. This huge effort resulted in more than 70% of the drivers demanding recognition. But, ultimately the employer rejected the recognition demand and an NLRB election had to be scheduled.

During the organizing campaign, Reliable utilized a notorious union-busting firm to harass, bribe, make promises to and intimidate the drivers. At the same time, Local 853's staff and members spent hundreds of hours meeting with drivers all over Northern California to keep their spirits high and to deal with the constant turnover of drivers.

Finally, a majority of the drivers voted in a mail ballot election in favor of representation. But even a clear election victory wasn't enough to stop the company from filing objections to the election to delay the process. Local 853 began a campaign to force the company come to the table. Finally, after almost a year of legal maneuvering, The company called Aloise and asked for "an off the record" meeting where they offered to start negotiations. After months of negotiation, a first-time contract was reached.

Getting the agreement

"Getting this contract was not easy," Aloise says. "We had to take the competition in the industry into account because most of this work is done by owner-operators who don't have a contract."

The agreement covers all of the necessary union demands; it includes a grievance procedure, job protections, vacations, holidays, provisions for health and welfare and pensions. "Perhaps most importantly to the new members at Reliable, the contract includes rules that can be enforced with the company," Aloise said.

"We see this contract as a first step," Aloise said. "In the coming years, we will work to organize other companies so that Reliable is not the only union company. Then when it comes time to renew the contract, we'll get an even better deal for our members."



Volume 8, Number 3

Reliable Trucking
Stewards Seminar