Contracts and organizing...

First Teamster contract in cannabis industry

The first Teamster contract covering workers in the fast-growing cannabis industry was ratified in January. The 20 new members of Locals 853 and 63 work as drivers and warehouse workers at River Distributing Company, LLC, with sites in Santa Rosa, Sacramento and Los Angeles.

“These guys are so excited to be Teamsters because they’re proud to be protected,” says Business Agent Steve Beck. “They also enjoyed an immediate $2/hour wage increase, a $500 signing bonus, and to be part of the pension and 401K plan.” Beck says that they’ll start in the Teamsters Health and Welfare program in the next contract.

This company distributes medical marijuana, which has been legal for 20 years. When recreational marijuana becomes legal in January, 2018, the industry is expected to skyrocket. The union is working to establish “labor peace” agreements with several other companies, which means that management will not wage massive anti-union campaigns and will allow the employees to unionize once a majority sign union cards.

When prohibition ended and liquor was again legal in the U.S., the government wisely established what’s known as a three-tier system, ensuring that different entities were responsible for manufacturing, distribution and sales. This system ensured that taxes were paid correctly; it was also a useful system by which unions could divide jurisdictions. “Thanks to Rome’s knowledge of the liquor industry, he’s helped create a standard in the cannabis industry that will be invaluable,” Beck adds. “We look forward to organizing thousands of workers in this industry.”

First Transit dispatchers and supervisors join union

Dispatchers and supervisors at First Transit, Inc. in Redwood City ratified their first contract on May 11. This is the first of its kind for the Teamsters Union.

“Congratulations to all of our members who worked hard and fought for a strong contract at First Transit,” said Secretary-Treasurer Rome Aloise. “These workers came together to fight hard for their rights, and their efforts are a great example of the work being done to improve conditions all across the passenger transportation industry.”

The contract includes wage increases for the next three years, including a minimum increase of 6 percent in year one. It also includes holiday premium pay, and a 15-percent reduction in health and welfare costs for the workers.

“Any first contract is a challenge,” said Business Agent Phil Ybarrolaza, who led the talks for the union. “In the end, we were able to put together a contract that improves things for everybody.”

“If there’s one thing I’ve taken away from the organizing and contract process, it’s that you should know your worth, and no matter what, always live by your moral compass,” said Lisa Abarr, a Customer Service Representative who served on the organizing committee and later the negotiating team. “Even if your views are unpopular or inconvenient, still stand by what you believe and never falter.”

Abarr added that the process helped make her workplace more unified. “We all feel like there’s more overall respect between management and employees.”

Boston Coach drivers vote for union

By a solid majority, the 21 drivers at Boston Coach Chauffeurs voted on May 30 for Local 853 to represent them. These are “black car” limousine drivers that work major accounts, such as Genentech and the Ritz-Carlton. “These people drive Silicon Valley’s wealthiest denizens and yet they were making $9 or $10/hour plus an unspecified gratuity,” says Organizer Tracy Kelley, who adds that many of the drivers couldn’t afford the health care and none had a retirement plan of any sort.

“This was a story of inequality,” Kelley says. “I look forward to helping negotiate their first contract to start leveling the playing field.”

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