On May 18, Durham School bus drivers overwhelmingly ratified a contract extension that provides a $3.50 per hour raise on July 1 for all drivers. The starting wage will also be increased to $20 per hour. These wages constitute a dramatic improvement from the $12 per hour starting wage in affect when these drivers first organized in 2012. In fact, in four short years, these drivers have achieved a 67% increase.
“This agreement comes after the record setting increases achieved by the drivers at First Student San Jose and First Student Oakland,” says business agent Adolph Felix, who notes that drivers at the Margarite Shuttle at Stanford and in San Francisco recently got the best paratransit contracts in the country.
“These enormous increases can be attributed, in large part, to our successful organizing efforts in the tech industry, said Secretary-Treasurer Rome Aloise. “We took an industry with an average wage of $18 per hour and raised that average to over $27 per hour virtually overnight. We also got similar improvements to the benefit packages.”
Those increases put pressure on bus companies throughout the Bay Area to raise their compensation packages as drivers started flocking to the tech industry.
The Durham extension provides for more annual increases through the life of the four year extension.
The contract talks at Westside Building Materials in Oakland were not going well. The 40 members had rejected the company’s first offer because it included a two-tier system for new hires who would make $5-6 less in starting wages, and instead of a pension, they’d only have a 401(k) plan. The company also wanted to freeze wages and give a bonus when the year was over. The members accepted the union’s recommendation to reject the contract. Business Agent Efren Alarcon warned the membership at a union meeting that a strike might be imminent.
But it didn’t turn out that way. The company has 10 locations, some are union and others are not. The union brought in Mark Woomer from Local 952 who has experience with this company in Southern California. Together, Woomer and Alarcon pushed the company to drop the two-tier plan and withdraw all of their takeaways. We ended up getting a 40 cent increase each year of the contract. By moving the health and welfare plan from one trust fund to another, members were able to save the member $250/month, or the equivalent of $1.47 per hour. With those changes, the members voted to ratify the contract overwhelmingly.
Alarcon wanted to thank and acknowledge Mark Woomer for bringing in the power of solidarity; Joaquin Guzman and Andreas Lopez who served on the negotiating team and kept in close communication with the rank and file; and Local 853’s Recording Secretary Stu Helfer and Secretary-Treasurer Rome Aloise for their invaluable advice.
When a member was fired from Berkeley Farms in Hayward, both he and the union felt that the termination was unfair. Business Agent Doug Radonich pursued the grievance, and ultimately the member got a settlement of $110,000. Although this member is not returning to work at Berkeley Farms, he certainly won a soft landing.
In June 2015, the dairy laid off four members. They were brought back to work in October, but the company did not correct their seniority or give them the signing bonus for the new contract that the other members received. Radonich succeeded in getting their seniority restored and $1,500 apiece.
And to ensure that this issue never happens again, Radonich got the company to change a longstanding past practice; Berkeley Farms had believed that they didn’t have to honor seniority for anyone laid off for more than one year, but now they’ll honor seniority with full recall rights for all employees after 90 days.
The 80 members who work at the Safeway Dairy in San Leandro overwhelmingly ratified their new agreement in May. “We strengthened seniority bidding, instituted new training procedures, got a signing bonus and wage increases each year and additional money to ensure maintenance of benefits on the health and welfare plan,” says President Bob Strelo. “This is a really good contract and the members know it.”
The members at Goodyear in Hayward have the best contract they’ve ever had. Business Agent Ray Torres (L) reports that the members will receive wage increases of $1.75 to $6.00, sick and bereavement leave, and a boot allowance. “The company didn’t acknowledge that the work these guys do is really a skilled trade,” Torres said. “Now they do.” Torres wanted to especially recognize and thank Shop Steward Allan Bundy (second to left) for his help on the negotiations and for keeping the membership informed and involved in the process.
Business Agent Stu Helfer reports a Project Labor Agreement (PLA) reached in January will cover construction of all major BART projects. “This will be huge in terms of hiring Teamsters,” he says.
“Teamsters were part of the PLA to build the BART Oakland Airport Connector and that was very successful. It meant we had a lot of people working on it.”
Helfer says that the Teamsters are out working on the Hayward Maintenance facility now. As BART progresses with plans to circle the bay, this should give union drivers in construction and ready—mix significant opportunities in the future.
Across the west coast, about 11,000 Teamster members who work at Costco voted overwhelmingly to ratify their new three-year contract.
After Costco members on both coasts had rejected the company’s first offer—the first rejection in the contract’s 40-year history—they voted for the second version, where they got $.60/hour each year in wage increases, retro to February, and $.05/ hour into the pension. Most importantly, the Teamsters on the east coast will get into the WCT pension plan for the first time, where they had only had a 401(k) plan in the past.
After 20 bargaining sessions, the Teamsters who work at Sysco in Fremont, Sacramento and north, and in Reno were close to a strike. “We had huge struggles over keeping maintenance of benefits for the health and welfare plan and for a contract that included retroactivity, even though the company had stalled negotiations for months,” says Business Agent Dan Varela.
“Fortunately, the members stood up and stayed solid, and we got great contracts,” Varela says. “The Sysco Fremont contract is the best in the nation.”
Bargaining was coordinated with Fremont, Reno, Sacramento and Oklahoma City. Joining Varela to set strategies and do the bargaining was International Vice Presidents (and Local 853 Secretary-Treasurer) Rome Aloise and Steve Vairma and Local 137 President Dave Hawley.
“We had a seasoned group of stewards and just surrounded the company,” said Varela. “Being united and having the support of the International made all the difference.”
On April 24, Local 853 members who work in the Ready Mix industry filled the union’s new meeting hall for a contract proposal meeting. The master ready-mix agreement expires on June 30. Vice President Bo Morgan says that negotiations are taking place now.
Two new companies joined the Teamsters in March and April. They are Tri Valley Water Truck and STL Trucking. Together they bring in about 12 new members who drive water trucks, dump trucks and sweeper trucks. Welcome new Teamsters!
The 20 people who work in administration at First Transit in Redwood City voted on March 30 to be represented by the Teamsters union. “We’ve submitted proposals and bargaining is going on now,” says Organizer Rodney Smith.