The “Teamster Gauntlet,”
or, passing a law when everyone
said it couldn’t be done

By Terry Post

“If you don’t like it,” growled the red-faced contractor, “change the law!”

That was 2014. The issue was whether or not ready mix drivers should receive prevailing wages on a publicly-funded, multi-million dollar construction project. The union wanted it, the contractor didn’t.

The contractor had thrown down the gauntlet, setting Local 853 Business Representative Stu Helfer in motion.

Once he recruited a group of activists from Local 853, Stu then got Secretary-Treasurer Rome Aloise involved. Aloise was able to bring in Joint Council 7 Political Director Doug Bloch, Teamster Legislative Representative Barry Broad and friends from the State Building and Construction Trades. These were the people who knew the politicians and the ins-and-outs of the complicated legislative process.

Also joining the team were two friends of labor, Assembly members Tom Daly (D-Anaheim) and Lorena Gonzalez (D-San Diego). They co-authored what became known as AB 219, the bill to expand prevailing wage to cover ready mix drivers.

When AB 219 came before the Assembly Committee on Labor and Employment, anti-union contractors, ready mix bosses and lobbyists came out of the woodwork to stop it. In spite of the opposition’s attack, the bill passed 5-2 out of the Labor Committee on April 23 and was sent to the Committee on Appropriations.

About 40 union members filled the halls of the Capitol, lobbying Assembly members the day the bill came before Appropriations. The bill passed 12-5 out of Appropriations on May 28 and was sent to the Assembly floor where it passed 52-27 on June 3. Now, it was on to the Senate Labor Committee.

We packed the hearing room the day the Committee on Labor debated our bill. Aloise was there in the front row. The opposition lined up to condemn AB 219. At one point, when a Senator insinuated that the Committee lacked evidence on a relevant ready mix question, Barry Broad turned to the audience and asked that all the Teamsters stand.

“Ask them,” Barry told the committee.

The besieged Committee on Labor passed our bill 4-1 on June 24 and sent it to the Senate Committee on Appropriations where it passed 4-2 on July 6. All of a sudden it was on the floor of the Senate.

On that day, September 1, 60 union members lined the halls of the Capitol. Someone commented that our presence looked like a Teamster “gauntlet.”

Yep, the contractor threw down the gauntlet and we formed one.

That afternoon, Senator Tony Mendoza (D - Cerritos) introduced the bill and four minutes later, AB 219 passed 24-13.

Two days later, AB 219 was passed by the Assembly 51-27 and was on Governor Brown’s desk on September 16 at 4 p.m. The Governor signed the bill on October 11, 2015.

The nearly year-long effort had paid off. It was a victory for all of labor, particularly for the exceptional teamwork among California Teamsters, the Building Trades, the California Federation of Labor, lobbyists, legislators, lawyers and so many more.

Finally, it was a victory for crazy ideas, long shots, patience, tenacity, doing your homework, and putting boots on the ground. It was an honor to be part of the Teamster Gauntlet.

Back to Home Page