Saving jobs and negotiating the best contracts

Secretary-Treasurer's Report - Summer 2015

Our Local never is satisfied with sitting still. There’s always something going on, and 2015 has been particularly busy.

We have been involved in many negotiations and contract ratifications, most of which have gained great improvements for our members. You can read stories about some of these contracts elsewhere in this newsletter, but I wanted to give special mention to the Gillig Corporation situation. In business for 125 years, Gillig is the last company in the U.S. that makes buses from start to finish. As a young organizer, I brought them into our Local and negotiated their first 10 contracts. Vice President Bo Morgan recently negotiated a significant contract extension to go along with the company building a new plant in Livermore.

This is momentous for a number of reasons. First, Gillig is successful in a marketplace where all of their competitors are foreign companies, with much cheaper labor costs, and in many cases, government subsidies. Gillig has flourished because our members are highly-efficient and productive, and work hard to turn out a superior product each and every year. Upon announcing that they needed a new factory, the company got offers from all over the country, many offering attractive deals that would relieve them of taxes, provide free land, and in one case, refund the cost of building the factory. On our end, we used our Local’s political clout in the state, county and city of Livermore to obtain tax incentives and waivers if Gillig stayed in California and Alameda County.

I am pleased to say that Gillig decided to stay local; the compelling reason was our members! The company knew they could not duplicate either the quality of work or the loyalty of our members throughout the last 38 years. Additionally, our members just ratified a seven-year extension creating job security for them, and a secure environment for the company going forward.

This is yet another example of how Local 853 has been able to successfully work with many employers to save jobs and make our contracts the best in the country.

The battle in Sacramento

We are involved in another legislative battle in Sacramento, which I am pleased to say, that unlike our brothers and sisters in many other states, is not about fighting off some anti-worker initiative, but rather trying to improve another aspect of our members’ lives and improve the competitive advantage for our unionized ready mix companies. We have been pushing a bill through the state legislature to make ready mix workers a prevailing wage rate category. Almost all contractors and construction associations are opposing the bill and it has been an epic battle so far. We have won other hard fights, and we will prevail on this one. I thank our members who came up to the Capital during various committee meetings; that makes all the difference with our elected representatives.

Comings & goings

On a bittersweet note, Antonio Christian, our long time business agent and Recording Secretary has retired from the Local and moved to Louisiana with his wife. He will still be working in the capacity of the IBT Human Rights Director, so we will still have him working with us—but from the National level. He was a credit to our union, serving our members very well for more than 23 years and distinguishing himself and our Local on a National level. We will miss him. Stu Helfer has been appointed Recording Secretary and John Thomas, long time VWR member, and now SF Chronicle member, has been appointed to our Executive Board as Trustee. I am sure both will do a great job for our members. On a very sad note for me personally, and for many members who over the years had the good fortune to work with him, my good friend and longtime Business Agent and retired Recording Secretary, Jerry Carbone passed away. Jerry was one of the brightest officers ever to hold office in Local 853, and in retirement he agreed to stay on and represent our Liquor salespersons. He was smart, loyal and friendly to everyone with charm that overtook everyone who met him. Jerry was one of a kind and he will be missed.