More than 1,500 Contra Costa County, Calif., workers joined Local 856 in a landslide vote in February.
Eighty-five percent of workers in the health services, general maintenance, and licensed vocational nurse/aide units who cast ballots chose Teamster representation. More than two-thirds of eligible employees participated in the election.
“The high participation level in the election and overwhelming vote in favor of the Teamsters is a loud statement that things need to change at the county,” said Peter Finn, Secretary-Treasurer of San Bruno, Calif.-based Local 856.
“The strong vote result is an important first step in our fight to ensure the valuable work done by county workers for the communities they serve throughout Contra Costa is recognized. We are committed to using all the resources necessary to make that happen,” Finn said.
Contra Costa Teamsters serve the public throughout the county. They staff hospitals, clinics and mental health facilities, as well as maintain essential public infrastructure and safety.
Finn said affordable health care was one of the most important issues for the Contra Costa workers.
“There are community health workers making less than $14 an hour who must pay $800 a month for a Kaiser plan,” Finn said.
Some of the new Teamsters also said respect was an important issue. The workers said they not only want respect from their employer, but from their union.
“We organized with the Teamsters because we want county management to respect us as a real union,” Cynthia O’Brien, an ultrasound technologist with the county’s Health Services Department, said in an interview with the Contra Costa Times.
A key factor in the fight for fairness and respect were many other public services workers represented by Local 856 in California.
“Joining the Teamsters gave us a voice. When you need them to, they will speak up for you,” said Justin Kmetz, a radiology tech assistant at St. Rose Hospital in Hayward, Calif.
“Because we have the Teamsters fighting for us and backing us, our management finally gives our unit the respect we deserve,” said Rebecca Hibbs, a public safety dispatcher with the city of Walnut Creek, Calif. She and her co-workers joined Local 856 in 2014.
The local has been holding educational sessions trainings for their new members. In February and March, Local 856 had “all-member bargaining training,” where all Contra Costa County Teamsters were invited to attend a workshop on public sector bargaining law and Teamster negotiating skills.
“The success of this organizing campaign and winning these elections is only the beginning of our fight,” Finn said. “We must continue this momentum forward now and demand that Contra Costa County treat its employees with the respect and dignity that they deserve.
“There is strength in numbers and by continuing to stand together with your co-workers we can achieve a strong Teamster contract with overdue pay increases and reductions in soaring health care costs,” Finn said.
The Health Services unit includes clinical psychologists, dietitians, pharmacists, pharmacy technicians, occupational therapists, physical therapists, ultrasound technologists, substance abuse counselors, respiratory care practitioners and public health nurses and others. The LVN/Aide unit comprises licensed vocational nurses, certified medical assistants, certified nursing assistants, dental assistants, psychiatric technicians and orthopedic technicians. The General Services and Maintenance units includes building inspectors, cooks, custodians, gardeners, information systems technicians, maintenance workers, stationary engineers and equipment mechanics.