Membership Appreciation

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The seventh annual Local 853 Membership Appreciation Day brought another record crowd to the union hall on November 5. More than 400 members got an opportunity to get a final revving up before the special election; they heard the “State of the Union” by Secretary-Treasurer Rome Aloise, and a lucky—and fairly large—group collected a huge bounty of raffle prizes.

Special guests included IBT Vice-President Chuck Mack, who shared stories about visiting with Teamsters across Northern California to talk about the Special Election. “If we succeed in defeating Props 74-77, we’ll have kicked Arnold’s butt, and he’ll have to stand down from his anti-union agenda,” Mack said.

Stewart Boxer, from the workers’ compensation law firm of Boxer and Gerson reminded members about the role the governor played in wrecking the workers’ comp system. “Just another reason to be sure to vote down Arnold’s half-baked initiatives,” Boxer added.

State of the Union

Then it was Aloise’s turn to discuss the state of the union. “Our membership has grown in the last year,” Aloise began as he talked about the Reliable Trucking battle. “30 years ago, this industry was all union. But in losing union status, the employees found their benefits were getting worse, not better over the years.” The company pursued one unfair labor practice after another during the organizing drive, threatening workers on one hand and bribing them on the other. “In the end, we still won, and we’re moving forward.”

The local only had one strike in 2005 and that was at Pacific Ready Mix. “When the company stopped paying our members their wages and benefits, they had to go out.”

Local 853 has purchased the building next to the union hall. “Owning two buildings gives us a good investment for our members and for our future. We’ll set up video conferencing and may have next year’s Membership Appreciation Day in both halls!” “All in all, Aloise concluded, “we continue to move and shake and be active.”

Recommitting to our union

The main theme of Aloise’s comments was about the future of “our” union. Aloise took the group back to the time when unions were first organized and their members gave their all because “they had nothing to lose.” When union solidarity enabled them to get the raises and benefits they couldn’t get on their own, members displayed their union loyalty proudly, and they passed down that commitment to the next generation. Older members mentored new members, teaching them about how the union works, how to be involved, and ensured that they understood what the union did for them.

As years passed, however, the generations coming of age in the 1960’s and 70’s were more anti-authoritarian and individualistic. Union members became the middle and upper-middle class, and, with more to lose, they became more conservative. This is when members began to think of their union as “the union” instead of “my union.” Members stopped attending union meetings and starting resenting that they had to pay union dues.

The goal of Local 853 is again to be thought of as “Our Union.” Aloise suggested that those present talk with their fellow union members at work about their union. “When someone new comes to your shop, welcome them to the company and to your union. Remind them about what your union does to ensure they have decent wages and benefits and rights on the job. Your pride in your union will keep us strong,” Aloise suggested.

The great raffle give-away

Capping off the meeting was the raffle prize give-away. The grand prize was a 32-inch television. Major prize winners could then choose from an assortment of DVD players, smaller TVs, digital cameras and other electronic items. Remaining winners could pick union hats, t-shirts, jackets and more. “We give stuff away so people will feel close to their union and give us some positive advertising,” Aloise added.

Those who attended the meeting also got vouchers for gore-tex jackets embroidered with the union logo on the outside and on the removable lining. Due to a shipping delay, the jackets weren’t available at the November meeting.


Top: John Becker call the meeting to order. Seated L-R: IBT
Vice President Chuck Mack; Local 853 Secretary-Treasurer
Rome Aloise, and Vice President Phil Tarantino.

Center: Three drivers from Reliable Trucking, Jaime Guido,
Darren Fedorff, and Manual Ambriz, who are fighting for union
recognition.

Bottom: Rome Aloise gives "state of the union" address.