When a company is successful and grows, that’s great for the union, because it generally leads to increased hiring and more union members. But when that growth might entail building a new facility, that can be fraught with danger, as cities and states will spend big bucks to lure new manufacturing plants. That’s just what happened at Gillig. Fortunately, instead of moving to Texas or Nevada or even Southern California, Gillig will leave their home of 80 years in Hayward and move up the road in Alameda County to Livermore.
For nearly 40 years, Teamsters Local 853 has represented the members at Gillig, a 125-year old, family-owned company that is the last start-to-finish bus manufacturer in the U.S. (Others assemble their buses here but build them elsewhere.) Gillig’s success has grown, especially since Teamster allies convinced AC Transit, the local bus company, to purchase locally- made buses. A backlog of orders had convinced the company that they’d outgrown their Hayward facility, launching them on a national search for a new site.
And that’s where the Teamsters came in. The company garnered generous offers from other states, but, Joint Council 7 Political Director (and Local 853 member) Doug Bloch was able to help them raise enough money and concessions from the City of Livermore and from Alameda County to convince them to stay local.
Building big with an eye for continued expansion, Gillig will relocate to a half-million square-foot manufacturing and office facility on a 38-acre site at the new Oaks Business Park near the Livermore Municipal Airport. They will build a nearly 600,000-square-foot main facility, as well as two smaller structures— a 50,000-square-foot building used for fabrication and assembly and a 27,000 square-foot facility to prepare the buses for delivery.
“It wasn’t just the money that enticed them to stay in this area,” says Local 853 Vice President Bo Morgan. “It was our members and the company’s strong relationship with our union.” Even though there was still 18 months left on the current agreement, the company asked for a seven-year contract extension to 2023.
The agreement averages $2.26/year for seven consecutive years in the economic package that includes health and welfare, pension and wages. “The members can allocate that increase where ever they choose,” Morgan explains. “We also got the employer to pay the 13-19 cents/hour restoration surcharge that the AI Pension is demanding of each member.”
“We’re so glad that the company is staying in Alameda County. We don’t know how the move will play out, but the company had been clear that they didn’t want any labor unrest during that process,” Morgan explains. “If we had been without a contract during the move, it could have been a difficult transition.”
Ultimately, Morgan believes that doing the extension was prudent. The membership at Gillig agreed, as they ratified their new contract by a 85% margin.
“In 1976, Gillig was the lowest-paid manufacturer in Alameda County. Now they’re the highest paid in the country,” Morgan says. “By 2023, they’ll be at $40/ hour with two pension plans and a 401K.”
Morgan wanted to be sure to thank all the shop stewards: Jose Tejada, Joe Bulhouse, Robert Kerry, Joel Bellison, and Lupe Pinedo. “They were involved in supporting it, getting it out on the floor, and explaining it to the members.”