California public employees in San Bernardino County voted to affiliate with the Teamsters Union recently, paving the way for more than 13,500 workers to have a more secure future, and nothing could be better for Ivo Rodriguez.
Rodriguez’s father was a Teamster for 50 years, so growing up he experienced what the union did for his family.
“I am proud of several things: my daughters being born, marrying the woman I love,” Rodriguez said. “But what I am most proud of is being a former Marine and protecting the country I love. It feels like that again with this victory. I am part of an organization, the Teamsters, that makes sure the workers of this country are represented well by strong values.”
Rodriguez and his co-workers cast ballots in March and April, and about 61 percent voted in favor of Teamster representation. The workers were members of the San Bernardino Public Employees Association (SBPEA), but as a result of the affiliation vote they are Teamsters.
“The Teamsters have the resources, expertise and clout to negotiate the strongest contracts possible. This vote shows that San Bernardino County public employees understand this and want Teamster power at the bargaining table,” Teamsters General President Jim Hoffa said. “We have been successful representing public employees across the country, including those employed in cities, towns, counties and public universities, such as the University of California system, Penn State and the University of Minnesota. We expect to be able to help the workers in San Bernardino as well.”
“We know about the Teamsters’ strong track record of winning improved wages, benefits and working conditions for public employees, so this is a great victory for us,” said Kathleen Brennan, a county Information Services Department employee. “We look forward to having real Teamster power when it’s time to sit at the bargaining table.”
The Teamsters Union has been successful in winning wage and benefit gains for the 14,000 members of Local 2010 employed at the University of California. The union also represents city and county employees across the state. There are more than 270,000 public employees nationwide who are Teamster members.
The more than 1,500 workers in San Bernardino provide vital services to the public, working at hospitals, in public works and public health services departments, police departments and in dozens of other public positions.
“The San Bernardino public employees’ association reached out to us and we are excited to stand shoulder to shoulder with these dedicated public servants in negotiating strong Teamster contracts,” said Randy Cammack, President of Joint Council 42 in Pomona, Calif. “These public employees in San Bernardino are now members of the newly formed Teamsters Local 1932.”
The victory was a joint effort between Joint Council 42 and the International Union.
Rodriguez, who works in the county’s Transitional Assistance Department helping people in need, said he is excited to be a Teamster.
“Growing up in a Teamster home, I witnessed first-hand how they took care of my dad,” Rodriguez said. “We need a strong union like the Teamsters.”
Rodriguez said he and his co-workers have not had a decent raise in years.
“I have 24 years with the county and I am close to retirement,” he said. “The medical insurance is so expensive a lot of workers have to wait longer to retire when they are closer to being eligible to receive Medicaid.”
Rodriguez said workers have wanted positive change for years.
“We needed this move a while ago and our association, the SBPEA, with its new board members, saw that we had to change with the times,” he said. “It was good to be independent but now after this affiliation with the Teamsters, we have the power behind us to achieve a better life for all our county families.”
Jaime Ocegueda, a maintenance worker at the county pool, said it feels great to know the Teamsters are fighting for the workers.
“We have many important issues, including the need for night-differential pay because people have to use their comp time to make up their 40 hours during storms in the winter,” Ocegueda said. “Because many employees struggle financially, we would like to get free counseling for credit problems because debt brings more stress to our lives.”
Proven Track Record
Carolyn Guillory, a cook in the Nutrition Department at the Arrowhead Regional Medical Center, said she has also seen what the Teamsters can do to help working families.
“I truly believe in the Teamsters,” said Guillory, a 15-year county employee. “My husband and father-in-law were Teamsters. I saw them get the benefits of a strong contract.”
County workers need higher pay and an important wage reopener, affecting a majority of the more than 13,500 workers, will take place in the fall, so the timing is important for the affiliation.
“We need Teamster clout to help us bargain a strong contract, but we also need support in general on a day-to-day basis. That is another strength of the Teamsters, the excellent representation,” Guillory said.
“It feels great to be a Teamster,” Guillory said. “I hope that by working together, the workers, the SBPEA and the Teamsters, all of our lives will improve.”
Antonio Salazar, a maintenance technician for the city of Colton Public Works Department, said that with the wage reopener later this year, the affiliation is pivotal.
“I think it’s great that we have the added benefits of Teamster representation,” Salazar said. “We know about the Teamsters’ strong track record, especially in California, of representing the interests of public employees.”
Natasha Rodriguez, an office assistant at the Arrowhead hospital, has served as an SBPEA representative for about seven years, helping her co-workers.
“In the last few contract negotiations, many people were not happy with the results and I told our association’s board that we needed more power,” she said. “So, this affiliation with the Teamsters is great for the members. I believe in the Teamsters. I am proud of being a rep for the SBPEA and I am proud of being a steward for Teamsters Local 1932.”
Because workers have had to pay more toward their retirement benefits, some workers’ take home pay is down from the last contract.
Employees have had some raises, but they have been almost completely offset by the pay cuts related to the added retirement costs.
“Some higher-ups are making more money and we’re stuck getting cuts,” Rodriguez said.
“The Teamsters don’t fool around, they get things done,” Rodriguez said. “That’s what I want and I’m proud to be part of it.”
Jackie Heule, who works in the engineering division for the city of Big Bear Lake, has been a representative for SBPEA for the past nine years.
“The affiliation will make our union even stronger,” said Heule, a 12-year employee with Big Bear Lake. “The Teamsters are very strong and united and the union gets things done.”
Big Bear Lake is home to Southern California’s largest recreation lake, a popular fishing spot filled with trout, bass and catfish. So, it may not have been a surprise when Heule offered this comment about the Teamsters’ strength.
“To me, being a Teamster is about security,” Heule said. “With this affiliation, we are more secure. I feel like I’m part of a bigger school of fish now.”
University of California Teamsters Play Critical Role Teamster members of Local 2010, who work at the University of California (UC) system, played a pivotal role in the organizing victory in San Bernardino County.
Local 2010 members took an active role, reaching out to their brothers and sisters in San Bernardino County and taking time out to talk to the workers. Many Local 2010 members came to San Bernardino County to share their stories.
“Being part of the Teamsters is very important because we get to champion each other’s rights, advocate for each other and also support each other,” Elissa Magno-Jardinico, a child development teacher at UC Berkeley, said in a message to San Bernardino workers.
“Being a Teamster means unity and we help each other by informing each other about our rights as workers. I urge you to join our Teamster family,” added David Lee Thomas, an administrative assistant at UC San Francisco.
Jason Rabinowitz, Local 2010 Secretary-Treasurer, reminded the San Bernardino workers about his members’ successes over the past five years in a letter.
“Prior to affiliating with the Teamsters five years ago, the UC support staff was represented by an independent organization, just as you are today. Unfortunately, that organization failed to adequately represent the workers. As a result, employees did not receive wage increases for at least four years; many of their jobs were outsourced; positions were severely understaffed, leaving workers to do more with less; personal favoritism tended to control work assignments and promotions; workplace bullying was rampant, and workers were denied pay for performing higher level work.
“However, after we affiliated with the Teamsters, we were able to bargain a contract that addressed many of the unacceptable conditions the workers had experienced. That is not to say all the problems disappeared, they didn’t. But, among other improvements, we won significant wage increases over five years. Through the effective representation of the Teamsters, we enforce our rights and have won victories such as preventing outsourcing of jobs; winning pay for performing higher level work; and reversing unjust discipline.
“Our membership has more than doubled—that is a true sign of effective representation. UC administrators are learning that they have to respect us, because we are Teamsters! As public employees in San Bernardino County, you deserve the same level of respect.”
Success at the bargaining table comes from an engaged and unified membership. The Teamsters Public Services Division will be working with Local 1932 to design and implement effective contract campaigns.
“We will encourage member input and their active participation at every worksite and throughout the community in our efforts to secure a better future for our newest Teamster members,” said Michael Filler, Director of the Teamsters Public Services Division.
A Wide Array of Members
The newly affiliated employees in and around San Bernardino County work at numerous locations throughout the county, as public works employees, law enforcement officers, water maintenance workers, social services employees, hospital employees, etc. In addition to working for the San Bernardino County government, they are employed at numerous cities and towns in the area:
San Bernardino public schools
East Valley Water District
Big Bear Lake