Teamsters Make Organizing Inroads in Western Region
Jesus Valdez just became a Teamster…again.
The port driver and his co-workers at Seldat Distribution in Southern California joined Local 63 recently, but Valdez had previously been a Teamster. He knows the value of a contract and representation.
“It feels great to be a Teamster again,” Valdez said. “It feels great to fight for what's right for the drivers—for fairness.”
Valdez is part of a growing movement in the Western United States, where the Teamsters Union has had much success organizing new members in recent years.
By a vote of 52-2, port trucking drivers at Seldat voted to join Local 63 in Rialto, Calif. The drivers work at two port yards in Compton and Fontana. There are about 80 drivers in the bargaining unit. Voting took place in mid-April and votes were counted on April 30.
“The drivers want fair pay after the company changed their pay system,” said Randy Cammack, President Joint Council 42 and Secretary-Treasurer of Local 63. “They also want affordable, quality health insurance.”
Unlike most port drivers who are misclassified as independent contractors, Seldat drivers are employees. However, the recent changes to their pay system have resulted in major cuts to their wages.
The company also waged a vicious anti-union campaign. Local 63 is filing numerous unfair labor practice charges for the company's union-busting tactics that took place during the campaign.
Idaho Nurses United
There were hugs, cheers and smiles all around the night that the votes were counted, and registered nurses with St. Joseph Regional Medical Center in Lewiston, Idaho, found out they were officially Teamsters.
On April 11, the previous months of teamwork had paid off. The nurses voted overwhelmingly to join Local 690 in nearby Spokane, Wash. Brandi Fiorino has worked at St. Joseph for 17 years, the past eight years as a registered nurse. During their campaign to organize, she and her co-workers were faced with mandatory hospital meetings and fliers discouraging them from forming their union with the Teamsters.
“One flier said the Teamsters Union would be a bad choice for us because Teamsters are truckers,” Fiorino said.
The nurses were prepared, having already discussed as a group with Teamster representatives about what to expect and how management might try to dissuade them from becoming Teamsters.
Keep on Truckin’
Rather than look negatively at the fact that the Teamsters Union has many members in transportation, the nurses turned management’s negative into a positive by embracing the union’s diverse membership, which happens to include thousands of health care workers in addition to truck drivers.
During the holidays, the various hospital departments have a tradition of decorating trees or wreaths, which are then auctioned off as a fundraiser. The nurses in the emergency room decorated their tree with a truck driver theme. It included truck driver hats and truck decorations, and won the prize for raising the most money for the fundraiser.
“We got the idea to make these hats that say ‘Keep on Truckin’ and made 50 of them to give out,” Fiorino said. “Everyone wears scrubs at work, but on 'Teamster Tuesdays' we wore our Teamster shirts to and from work that said 'Nurses Rights: Right time, right place, right union,' and we wore bracelets that said ‘Organize.’”
Nina Bugbee, Director of the Teamsters Health Care Division, provided the full resources and support of the union to the nurses in Lewiston as they organized.
Local 690 also represents nurses in Sandpoint, Idaho.
“We have great nurses who are strong employees and leaders. When you hire good nurses because you provide good pay and patient ratios, that gives security to the patients as well as the nurses. We are the patients’ advocates and being Teamsters gives us a great platform to be able to advocate,” Fiorino said.
St. Joseph was sold two years ago, making it a for-profit hospital for the first time in its more than 100-year history.
“As health care operations are bought out by corporations, this provides an opportunity for unions to increasingly enter the health care world to keep patients safe and stand up for health care workers, including nurses like us,” Fiorino said.
Las Vegas Strip
Thanks to Teamster power at Local 986, more than 4,000 workers on the Las Vegas Strip and in Downtown Las Vegas are now Teamsters and more will be organized in the years to come.
“We have been successful because Las Vegas hotel and casino workers want fair wages, solid benefits and a voice at work,” said Chris Griswold, Local 986 Secretary-Treasurer. “These workers make these hotels and casinos successful, and they deserve a secure future as Teamsters for the hard work they do every day.”
Longtime Teamster-represented properties include Caesars Palace, Harrah’s, Linq, Flamingo, Bally’s, Paris, Rio, Circus Circus, Luxor, Excalibur, Stratosphere, Westgate, The Plaza, Four Queens, Planet Hollywood and the Tropicana.
Recent organizing victories have taken place at Wynn, Hard Rock, Elara, Golden Nugget, The Palms and The Cromwell.
In addition, more than 1,500 workers at MGM properties have been organized recently. They include workers at Mirage, Bellagio, Aria, Vdara, Delano, Park MGM, New York, New York, Mandalay Bay and MGM Grand.
‘We Lit a Fuse’
In the past few years, Joint Council 7 in San Francisco has organized and lifted standards for workers at a rapid pace, welcoming thousands of new members to the union. Joint Council 7 represents 23 local unions and serves members in Northern California, the Central Valley and Northern Nevada.
Locals have shown impressive growth in organizing and representing public services workers.
In December 2016, over 1,000 workers in Butte County Social Services and General Services joined Local 137 in Redding, Calif. Not long after that, more than 1,500 public services workers in Contra Costa County joined Local 856 in a landslide victory.
Local 856 won another huge victory when more than 1,800 workers at West Contra Costa Unified School District joined Local 856, solidifying Local 856’s position as the largest public employees union in that county and continuing their strong growth.
A new frontier for organizing has also opened up in the highly successful tech world, uplifting lives and creating a brighter future for workers in a futuristic industry. Local 853 in San Leandro, Calif. has been a big part of that change.
When workers at Loop Transportation, the contractor for Facebook, joined the union, things started moving quickly.
“We lit a fuse,” said Rodney Smith, a Local 853 organizer. “As soon as we got a contract at Facebook, we started hearing from drivers at all of the shuttle companies wanting to become Teamsters.”
Since then, Local 853 has welcomed new members from Apple, Yahoo, Google, eBay and more.
Food Services of America
On March 8 of this year, a group of 34 drivers in Idaho and Oregon working at Food Services of America, Inc., which US Foods is in the process of purchasing, voted to become members of Local 483 in Boise, Idaho and Local 670 in Salem, Ore.
The two locals filed a combined petition to represent the workers. The vote was 23-9 in favor of Teamster representation. Local 483 will represent 32 of the 34 workers, while Local 670 will represent two.
“It feels good to be a Teamster,” said Vince Nye, an employee in Meridian, Idaho for the past four and a half years.
Teamsters in the West have launched a number of successful organizing campaigns to expand their membership at Durham School Services, the second-largest school bus contractor in North America.
“The Teamsters and Durham School Services came to an understanding around freedom of association issues last year,” said Rick Middleton, Teamsters Passenger Transportation Division Director. “Along with our national contracts at North American Central and First Student, we now have agreements of some sort with three of the four largest passenger transportation providers in North America.”
A recent organizing victory in Everett, Wash. is a good example of the inroads Teamsters have been making at the company.
In April, 127 workers at Durham School Services in Everett, Wash. voted by more than a three-to-one margin to join Local 38.
Durham driver Dan Jones is a member of the organizing committee at the Everett school bus yard. He worked very closely with Local 38 Business Agent Mike Raughter, along with many others, to ensure that the campaign was a success.
“I am proud of my fellow co-workers and the results of this election,” Jones said. “This wasn't just a 'yes,' this was a resounding ‘yes!’ This is the way we want to move forward with Local 38.”
“This Durham organizing campaign was driven by the commitment and perseverance of the committee,” Raughter said. “They want a voice in their workplace for themselves and their co-workers, and they delivered that message overwhelmingly. I couldn’t be happier for our new Teamster sisters and brothers.”
“The solidarity that Durham drivers maintained from start to finish in this organizing campaign is something to be very proud of,” said Steven Chandler, Local 38 Secretary-Treasurer. “Local 38 and the Durham drivers worked countless hours to ensure that our organizing plan worked. Our efforts paid off for the betterment of these new Teamsters.”
Southern California Teamsters have also scored big wins at Durham. Workers at the Durham yard in Carson, Calif. voted to join the union last year, and Local 952 recently ratified a contract with the company that covers more than 300 workers who provide transportation for the Santa Ana Unified School District.
The contract includes significant pay raises and more paid time off for the workers. The minimum starting wage for drivers at the yard is now $19 per hour, up from $10.25 only seven years ago.
“Contracts like this demonstrate how Teamster power leads to safer buses, better jobs and higher paychecks for our members,” said Local 952 Secretary-Treasurer Patrick D. Kelly. “What’s happening out here on the west coast is a model that can be replicated throughout the country.”
Winning in Washington
In the Pacific Northwest, Joint Council 28 has welcomed hundreds of new members in recent years, providing workers with the security that only comes with being Teamsters.
“Teamsters in Joint Council 28 recognize the importance of organizing new groups of workers, because with greater size and density comes greater strength,” said Rick Hicks, President of Joint Council 28 and Secretary-Treasurer of Local 174 in Seattle.
Last year, nearly 150 aircraft fuelers, dispatchers and mechanics employed by Swissport joined Local 174. The mostly-immigrant workgroup is based at SeaTac airport, and is responsible for fueling all commercial aircraft departing from that airport. The fuelers joined their 13 fellow Swissport employees working at the SeaTac fuel farm as members of Local 174.
Some other victories at Joint Council 28 local unions include:
• City of Chewelah, Local 690;
• City of Redmond, Local 763;
• Cities of Omak and Soap Lake, Local 760;
• Kittitas Valley Hospital Respiratory Therapists, Local 760;
• State Department of Corrections workers, Local 117;
• City of Anacortes Library and Museum, Local 231;
• APP World Fuel Services, Local 231.