In 2010, Joint Councils 7 and 38 merged in California, uniting over 100,000 Teamsters in 23 local unions. Joint Council 7’s territory is vast, covering 50 of California’s 58 counties and all of Northern Nevada.
Despite this, in 2010 Joint Council 7’s endorsement list was only two pages long. It made endorsements in most of the federal and statewide races, but at the local level – city councils, county boards of supervisors, school boards, and ballot measures – it mostly stayed out.
Why was that a problem? Simply put, if the Teamsters want to deliver the strongest contracts for its members and organize new workers into the union, it needs political support to do it. At the end of the day, it’s about having the power to get employers to say “yes” when they want to say “no.” On top of that, every day elected officials make decisions that impact our neighborhoods, our schools, and more. City and county governments have responsibility for affordable housing, maintaining our streets, setting local taxes, and more. If the Teamsters don’t get involved in electing people at the local level, it has no right to complain when they make decisions the union doesn’t like.
Finally, most politicians in Sacramento and Washington, D.C. got their start at the local level. The Teamsters work hard to build those relationships from the beginning and stick with people that stick with us over the years. Loyalty is important.
Since 2010, Joint Council 7 has made a big push to get more involved in politics at the local level, interviewing and endorsing candidates and taking positions on local ballot measures. It’s done this on its own and with Central Labor Councils and Building Trades Councils.
As a result, Joint Council 7’s endorsement list for the 2018 election grew to 20 pages long. That’s a 900 percent increase from 2010. It endorsed 338 candidates and 43 ballot measures and won in almost 70 percent of the races!
Equally important, four Teamsters won election to public office! This is unprecedented in the history of Northern California Teamsters.
Local 856 continues to lead the way in this area by helping elect three of its members to public office. In Marin County, Lori Frugoli won her bid to be Marin County District Attorney, a seat that impacts 856 members who work for the County. Esther Lemus beat out three incumbents in securing a seat on the Windsor Town Council.
In Richmond, Demnlus Johnson III won a seat on the City Council. Demnlus is a member of Local 856 and his dad and brother are both members of Local 70. He joins his fellow Local 856 sister Jovancka Beckles on the Richmond City Council, who ran a hard-fought grassroots campaign for the 15th Assembly District, finishing second in the race.
Over in Salinas, Local 890 helped elect their business agent Juan Cabrera to the Salinas Valley Memorial Healthcare System Board in Zone 3.
Along with Alameda Vice Mayor and Teamsters Local 856 staffer Malia Vella, the union now has seven active Teamster members elected to office in Joint Council 7!
Looking at our members who ran for office, Joint Council 7 has reason to be proud. As with many statewide and national elections this year, all of the Joint Council 7 members who ran were women and people of color. Particularly in California, elected officials are starting to reflect the diversity of the Golden State.