News from Local 853

Durham bus drivers ratify first contract

After ten years, 160 school bus drivers who work at Durham Bus Services in Hayward and Livermore have ratified their first contract.

“We started organizing these folks back in 2001,” says Business Agent Adolph Felix. Durham drivers pick up special needs kids. Felix says that the work can be hard and often sensitive, but the drivers have some leverage, because many of the kids need the stability of having the same driver.

“With a ratification vote of 126-18, we finally finished a 10-year struggle to get a contract with Durham. We were bargaining for eight months and the company was pushing the members to the brink of a strike. But we had a good committee who worked really hard and got through it.”

The contract covers wage increases, job protection, bidding rights for routes and busses, seniority rights and more.

The value of political clout

Business Agent Dan Varela reports that the Port of Oakland has put the Airport Parking, Airport Shuttle, and Jack London Square all up to bid. “Because of our strong political presence at the Port and the City of Oakland, all of our members who are currently working at these jobs (close to 150) have retained their jobs with full seniority and pay,” Varela says. This, while the non-union employees were displaced and/or had their pay reduced. This is one of the many reasons why unions needed to maintain their political clout and defeat Prop 32.

San Bruno explosion brings work

After natural—or unnatural—disasters, often the one industry that comes alive is the construction industry. Back in 2010, a gas pipeline exploded in San Bruno, devastating a neighborhood, and killing eight people.

But something good has resulted. “We’ve picked up a fair amount of work doing hydrotesting for the new PG&E pipelines,” says Business Agent Stu Helfer. “This will give our members roughly 10,000 hours of work that we never had before.”

At this point, 25-30 Local 853 members are working in South San Francisco, San Mateo and Alameda County. “We expect there will be 7000 miles worth of pipeline testing in Northern California over the next number of years.

Arbitration victory generates jobs

Rebuilding the Trans-Bay Terminal will be a three to four year job, but making sure that Teamsters got the on-haul and off-haul trucking work for the project was not a slam-dunk. In fact, it took an arbitration ruling to ensure that the Teamsters were included in the Project Labor Agreement.

“Most people didn’t think we’d win,” says Stu Helfer, “but between Secretary-Treasurer Rome Aloise okaying the legal fees, and the good work done by Teague Patterson and John Vargas of the Beeson Law Firm, we prevailed.” The ruling should have valuable ripple effects on many other Project Labor Agreements around the Bay Area. “This one will generate about $42 million in work. It was an expensive arbitration, but the work we stand to gain could be significant.”