In January, 170 warehouse employees of Gold Star Foods in Ontario, Calif. ratified their first-ever Teamster contract, but it wasn’t easy. Gold Star Foods initially fought its workers’ efforts.
What made the difference with Gold Star Foods?
Schools. And a Teamster partnership with food justice advocates that turned an employer’s bad attitude around.
“This is the culmination of hard work to build what has become a great working relationship between Gold Star and the Teamsters,” said Randy Korgan, Organizing Director for Teamsters Joint Council 42 and Local 63.
That relationship began as a negative one. As Gold Star continued to ignore drivers’ request for recognition, Local 63 enlisted allies to take the drivers’ message directly to Gold Star’s customers, including hundreds of school districts.
Local 572, which represents cafeteria managers at Gold Star’s largest customer, the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD), sent a letter to the LAUSD Board detailing several problems drivers faced that also affected school staff.
Good Food Purchasing Program
In 2012, LAUSD voted to adopt the Good Food Purchasing Program (GFPP), a policy that rewards good food procurement practices. The GFPP takes a holistic approach to procurement and awards points for five categories: local economies, nutrition, valued workforce, environmental sustainability and animal welfare. It’s not enough for food vendors to give schools a low bid.
Local 63 reached out to the Food Chain Workers Alliance for help in ensuring LAUSD was properly enforcing the “valued workforce” category of the GFPP. The Teamsters pointed out that Gold Star, by refusing to bargain with the union, was in violation of GFPP policy. The union was in the middle of strike preparations when Gold Star reached out and expressed interest in sitting down to negotiate a contract. Both sides worked out an agreement that was ratified before the school year started.
“With a Teamster contract, my family has much more stability,” said Raymond Aviles, a driver for Gold Star. “I can provide for my family and give my kids a better life.”
“I think we convinced Gold Star it was in their interest to work with us instead of fight us,” Korgan said. “We’ve demonstrated that a good relationship between employees and the Teamsters can actually help business.”