Photo of Redwood Debris Box Service drivers

Local 853 is focused on organizing

"We owe it to the unorganized to give them the power of a union!"

“Organizing is our future,” says Secretary-Treasurer Rome Aloise, who cut his teeth in the Teamsters as an organizer. “It’s not only important for the union to bring in new members, but we owe it to the unorganized. Everyone in the Bay Area, and across America, should have the power of a union in their corner.”

That’s why Local 853 has put so much emphasis on organizing. Here are a few of the recent campaigns, both completed and on-going.

Redwood Debris Box Service

By a vote of 9-6, the employees at Redwood Debris Box Service in Burlingame decided in July that they wanted to be represented by Teamsters Local 853. These workers drive containers for concrete and other construction debris to and from construction sites.

The Labor Board has certified the election results, and the union has begun the process of setting dates to bargain for a first contract. The new members met at Local 853’s union hall to hammer out the proposals and priorities they want to present to the employer.

“The employer did run an anti-union campaign,” says Organizer Rodney Smith. “But our guys stood fast. Of course, they are interested in getting a wage increase, but more, they are looking for respect, dignity and a voice at the workplace.”

Elgin Five Star Transportation

In September, about 35 people who work as drivers, driver aides, mechanics and maintenance personnel at Elgin Five Star Transportation, will vote to determine if they want to be represented by Local 853. Working out of two locations—San Francisco and San Rafael—these folks are responsible for transporting special needs and handicapped people.

“As always, the company is running an anti-union campaign,” says Smith. “We have meetings with our group on a regular basis. At the end of the day, we plan on being victorious.”

Loop Transportation

Google may have taken the heat, but several tech companies have shuttle busses taking their workers from San Francisco down to their campuses in Silicon Valley. For many, these busses have symbolized the further gentrification of San Francisco. For people with a Class B license, it’s a whole new source of employment.

It turns out, that several of those commuter and shuttle busses are contracted by Loop Transportation, based in South San Francisco. And, many of the drivers are starting to think that it’s time to unionize.

“This is an on-going campaign,” explains Smith. “A majority of the 64 drivers have signed cards signalling their desire to join the union, but we haven’t yet petitioned for the election. We want to meet with all of them personally before the company gets a chance to run an anti-union campaign.”

Smith says that he and a few others went to one of the sites to handbill the employees back in February. “The next day, the company gave everyone a 75 cent raise, so we immediately lost a lot of support.” But, the company has since reneged on some of its promises and taken back some of the raise, so the employees are again interested in getting the union.”

MV Transportation

In November 2012, Local 853 organized the 165 drivers and bus aides at MV Transportation in San Francisco. A year and a half later, the 12 dispatchers, 6 reservationists, 4 road supervisors, 3 clerical payroll workers, and 3 fueler/custodians decided they also wanted to get into the union.

The dispatchers had the first election, and voted to join the union. “Rather than go through the whole process with each group, I talked the company into recognizing the rest, and they agreed,” says Business Agent Efren Alarcon.

The new group currently makes between $12.66 and $13.00/hour, and they hadn’t received a raise since November, 2011. Now, they’ll each get at least a 50- cent raise for the first six months. Negotiations for the original and the new unit will open up in November, 2014. Drivers from Redwood Debris Box Service met at Local 853’s hall on August 23 to set negotiating priorities.

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