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Ruling on Newby Island Workers’ Case Ripples into Tech Industry

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                                                          Contact: Dianna Zamora Marroquin
August 27, 2015                                                                                             408.606-2060

Today, Silicon Valley’s contracted workers achieved a victory of national proportions with the “joint employer” ruling handed down by the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB). What started as contracted workers in a Milpitas, California waste plant fighting against abuse has resulted in a historic ruling that will dramatically alter contract employment. Today’s decision makes it illegal for companies to shift the responsibility for their workforce to contractors, holding them accountable for the wages and working conditions of their temporary or contracted employees.

In 2013, Teamsters Local 350 brought this Newby Island case to light by filing a suit against Browning-Ferris Industries, part of Republic Services, the country’s second largest waste management company. Among other things, Republic used a temp agency to attempt to dodge the living wage ordinance in San Jose, shortchanging 193 waste sorting workers $2.6 million and counting.

“This new standard will give workers who are often denied their basic rights and forced to work in deplorable conditions a voice. Companies will now find it much harder to use subcontracting as a primary tool to drive down wages, drive inequality up and shut down worker organizing,” said Ben Field, Executive Officer of the South Bay AFL-CIO Labor Council.  “It is high time that these multi-million dollar companies be held accountable for the conditions of their workers.”

The ruling gives momentum to the organizing happening in Silicon Valley and across the country. The NLRB decision comes less than a week after Google Express employees, who are temp workers with Adecco, voted to join The Teamsters. Now millions of contract workers, many of whom provide services in the local tech industry, can take their concerns right to the doorstep of tech companies when they bargain for better pay, benefits and working conditions.

“This ruling has major implications for the tech industry. The security officers, janitors, shuttle drivers, cafeteria workers, and landscapers – tech’s Black and Latino workforce-are mostly temps or subcontracted. Now big companies like Google, Apple and Facebook are responsible for making sure those are good jobs with fair wages. No more hiding,” said Derecka Mehrens, Executive Director, Working Partnerships USA and leader in the Silicon Valley Rising coalition.

“This decision will provide justice to workers who have been tirelessly fighting for fairness in the workplace,” said Larry Daugherty, principal officer of Teamsters Local 350. “We are proud to have supported and stood by these workers who wanted to have the right to organize without fear of retaliation. With today’s announcement, workers are better equipped to improve their workplace treatment and earn a fair wage with benefits.”

“The National Labor Relations Board’s decision has dramatically leveled the playing field for our fast food workers,” said Luisa Blue, SEIU 521 Chief Elected Officer. “These incredibly hard working individuals do not deserve to receive substandard treatment from fast food corporations simply because they are at a franchise. All employees deserve to work in safe conditions, receive just compensation, and be treated with dignity.”

The NLRB’s ruling is widely expected to permanently change the landscape for contracted workers.  No longer can an employer use a contracting company to circumvent the law and subject its employees to substandard treatment and unfair wages. Temp and contracted employees can have a seat at the table that has been denied to them for decades.

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Labor in the Pulpit

17 years ago, the Labor in the Pulpit program was launched in Silicon Valley as part of a national movement to celebrate the historic partnership between the labor and faith communities. Throughout the history of the workers’ rights movement—the fights for the eight-hour workday, weekends, benefits, and much more—many in the faith community have felt a moral duty to stand in solidarity on picket lines, at rallies, and to engage in the efforts to help everyone live with dignity and respect. Labor in the Pulpit is our opportunity to celebrate that partnership by bringing the faith and labor communities together. It’s a time to reflect on the progress we have made, and the work that has yet to be done. While the specifics of the fight may have changed due to the groundwork laid by our predecessors, the issues are still the same: living wages, work-life balance, securing benefits, and creating quality, middle-class jobs. Labor in the Pulpit is a time to highlight that we are successful when labor and faith work together and recommit ourselves to the fight for equity, dignity and justice.

Please contact Jessica Vollmer at (408) 809-2130 or jessica@wpusa.org if you would like to volunteer to speak at a service; help with delivery and pick up of materials; help with data entry; or any other role you feel called to do to help make this year another success.

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AADP Bone Marrow Drive

The Asian American Donor Program (AADP) is hosting a Bone Marrow Drive on Thursday, August 27, 2015 from 11am-3pm in front of  the State Alquist Building on 100 Paseo De San Antonio Walk.

AADP is looking for donors between 18-44 years of age and registration only takes 5 minutes. Donors will fill out a form, provide a cheek swab sample and be placed on a registry data base for a potential match.

Ethnic minorities are highly encouraged to register. Everyone who meets the guidelines is welcome to join.

Donald Rocha: San Jose employees were right about Measure B

By: Donald Rocha                                                                                                                                             Special to the Mercury News

Former San Jose Mayor Chuck Reed and San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo are telling us a fairy tale about pension reform. And that fairy tale is “Goldilocks and the Three Bears.”

In a recent opinion piece, Reed and Liccardo argued that the proposed Measure B settlement agreement “offers a Goldilocks solution between the fiscally soft benefit structure that existed prior to Measure B and the harder alternative in (Measure B.)” The settlement would increase pension benefits above Measure B levels. Like Goldilocks, Reed and Liccardo believe these new levels will be “just right.”

I generally agree with the Mayor on this point. Measure B has made it difficult for the city to recruit employees, especially police officers. Benefit levels do need to be revised.

But that’s only part of the story. The city council has been working on pension reform since 2010, and put Measure B on the ballot in 2012. Why did it take the council until 2015 to figure out that eating from the Measure B porridge bowl was burning our mouth?

I think the problem was that those of us who voted for Measure B may not have listened closely enough to City employees. They have become something of a punching bag over the past few years. Chuck Reed was especially adept at landing blows, once telling San Jose police officers that they were on the “gravy train.”

Despite this abuse, our employees were right about the consequences of Measure B. Ben Field, a labor representative, stood before the council in March 2012 and warned that “San Jose appears destined to become the training ground for workers who will leave for better jobs in the better-governed cities that surround us.” That’s exactly what ended up happening, but in my opinion the council did not take this warning seriously enough at the time. I believe some of us were too impressed with our own intelligence and too used to regarding employee unions as obstructionist to take what they had to say seriously.

So what’s changed? The mayor emphasizes the change on the union side, noting in a recent press release that union leadership has “dramatically altered the tone of the conversation between public safety unions and City Hall.” From my vantage point, the changes on the city side have been much more significant. Chuck Reed, a staunch opponent of revising Measure B while in office, has left the city, as have a few of his close allies. Liccardo himself has softened his position since being elected last November; he now supports rolling back Measure B provisions he once pledged to implement. If this course correction had happened back in 2012, the unions may well have been willing partners, allowing us to avoid turmoil and service impacts over the past three years.

Unlike Goldilocks, San Jose’s elected leaders shouldn’t just run away into the forest after breaking chairs and eating someone else’s porridge. We should take responsibility for our past decisions and try to learn from them. The lesson I’ve learned is that when the council begins work on a policy matter, we should focus less on trying to prove the other side wrong and more on approaching the work with an open mind. We should listen carefully to other people’s opinions, treat others with respect even when we disagree with them, and have the humility to understand that we are not always right.

Donald Rocha represents District 9 on the San Jose City Council.

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Labor and Union Night with the Earthquakes

The Quakes would like to invite all members of the Silicon Valley labor community to take advantage of a special offer for Labor and Union Night with the Earthquakes.

Who: San Jose Earthquakes vs. Philadelphia Union

When: Saturday, September 5 at 7:30pm

Where: Avaya Stadium

What: Discounted tickets in designated section using promo code LABOR

 

Purchase tickets with discounted Labor and Union rate HERE

Use code: LABOR

Groups of 10 or more should contact Matt Chan to avoid online purchasing fees

Members of the Teamsters union blocked a Bauer's IT tech shuttle in San Francisco

Tech Shuttle Company Is Accused of Thwarting Efforts to Unionize Its Drivers

By Josh Harkinson                                                                                                                                       Mother Jones

A recently filed federal complaint alleges that one of San Francisco’s biggest tech shuttle operators has attempted to thwart an effort to unionize its drivers. The complaint, filed by the San Francisco office of the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) in late June, alleges that Bauer’s Intelligent Transportation has spied on pro-union employees, interfered with union organizers, and organized its own management-backed union.

With 450 employees and 225 vehicles, Bauer’s has a visible presence on the streets of San Francisco. About a third of its business comes from technology companies such as Twitter, Yelp, Cisco, Salesforce, and EA Games. In the mid-’00s it drove 55 commuter buses for Google, which now operates giant white double-decker buses on its own. Last year, Bauer’s played a key role in negotiating a controversial deal that allows private commuter shuttles to use public bus stops to pick up Silicon Valley workers. (One study found that areas near the tech bus stops have seen some of the highest rent increases in San Francisco, where the median rent now stands at a whopping $4,225 a month.)

Bauer’s drivers have been increasingly demanding to earn a living wage and form a union. After their efforts stepped up this spring, the company responded with a number of “unfair labor practices,” according to the NRLB complaint. The agency’s complaint is based on an independent investigation of allegations filed in March by the Teamsters, which has been trying organize Bauer’s workers. Among other allegations, the NRLB complaint states that a Bauer’s supervisor solicited employees to sign a petition indicating that they wished to be represented by an in-house union known as the Professional Commuter Drivers Union. This supervisor served as the PCDU’s chief union representative. A few days later, Bauer’s entered into a collective bargaining agreement with the PCDU.

Bauer’s, NLRB regional attorney Jill Coffman writes in the complaint, has “dominated and interfered with the formation and administration of” an outside union while “rendering unlawful assistance and support to” its own union. She alleges that such practices violate federal labor law. Bauer’s did not return a call requesting comment.

The NLRB alleges that Bauer’s has “dominated and interfered” with the creation of an outside union while “rendering unlawful assistance” to its own in-house union.

The seven-page NLRB complaint offers few additional details about the allegations. Yet according to the Teamsters and a Bauer’s driver who shuttles Cisco employees, the supervisor who headed the PCDU asked only a few workers if they wanted to join the union, and asked others to sign a blank page. “He pretty much just pushed me a blank sheet of paper and said, ‘Here, sign this and I will see if I can get you better benefits,’” recalls the driver, who asked not to be named. “The next thing you know, he’s got a supposedly full-fledged union. It was odd.”

The contract that the PCDU “negotiated” with Bauer’s capped driver wages at $22 an hour. In comparison, a contract recently signed between the Teamsters and shuttle drivers for Facebook guarantees drivers an hourly wage of $26.50 by 2017.

“The drivers need and deserve better wages, better benefits, and more respect,” says Doug Bloch, the political director for the Northern California chapter of the Teamsters, which is holding a protest in San Francisco’s Mission District today to call attention to Bauer’s alleged union-busting tactics. “What Bauer’s did is an insult to these workers.”

The NRLB complaint will be argued before a federal judge in September. If the allegations hold up, Bauer’s might find it harder to do business in San Francisco. In March, the city’s Board of Supervisors unanimously passed a resolution that urges the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Authority to consider shuttle operators’ “labor harmony” when weighing their applications to use bus stops. The members of the SFMTA, who are appointed by San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee, have not yet acted on the resolution. The agency did not return a call from Mother Jones.

The handling of the Bauer’s dispute may also turn tricky for Lee, whom local activists say is too cozy with tech companies. In 2012, the mayor signed a $9.3 million lease granting Bauer’s the use of a city-owned pier as a parking lot for its buses. In June, Lee hired Bauer’s to ferry the attendees of the annual meeting of the Conference of Mayors to Uber’s SoMa headquarters. Yet Bloch says Lee has generally been supportive of labor interests. “It doesn’t surprise me that Bauer’s IT is breaking labor law,” Bloch says. “What would surprise me is if the political leadership in San Francisco tolerates it.”

Protests against Bay Area tech shuttles were a nearly weekly occurrence early last year, when the buses were blockaded, barfed upon, and occasionally smashed by anti-gentrification activists. If the shuttles get a reputation for disrupting workers’ efforts to organize, perhaps we’ll see version 2.0 of the Google bus protests.

SBLC Welcomes New Communications Director

The South Bay Labor Council (SBLC) is proud to announce that Dianna Zamora-Marroquin has joined their team as the new Communications Director. Zamora-Marroquin, a seasoned communications professional who brings years of experience in developing insightful and effective communications strategies, will be instrumental in the continued growth and success of the Labor Council. Zamora-Marroquin has enjoyed a successful career, holding a number of positions ranging from a Consultant for the Select Committee on California-Latin American Affairs for a State Assembly Member to the Communications Liaison for a State Senator. She has also excelled in strategic messaging creation and market research, working for a renowned research firm in San Diego. Prior to joining the SBLC, her career took her to Washington, D.C. where were she served as the Communications Director for two California Congressmen.

Zamora-Marroquin, who is fluent in Spanish, earned a Bachelor’s Degree in International Relations with a minor in Italian from the University of Southern California and Master’s Degree in Global Leadership from the University of San Diego.

For all future media inquiries, please contact Dianna at Dianna@southbaylabor.org

Labor Marks Silicon Valley City for Local Hiring, Apprenticeship Push

Photo by VIcki Thompson Ben Field, Executive Officer of the South Bay Labor Council, advocates wage and apprenticeship guidelines in Sunnyvale

Photo by VIcki Thompson
Ben Field, Executive Officer of the South Bay Labor Council, advocates wage and apprenticeship guidelines in Sunnyvale

By Nathan Donato-Weinstein
Silicon Valley Business  Journal

A labor-backed effort to boost local hiring and require the use of apprentices on private construction projects is gaining steam in Sunnyvale.

The ordinance, which passed a key hurdle on Tuesday, could hold far-reaching implications for the region’s building industry and signal the start of more such policies in Silicon Valley.

The Labor Council, along with the progressive think tank Working Partnerships, is leading the push for the rules, which have been adopted in other U.S. cities in some form. Few Bay Area communities have embraced them. The proposal’s main backer in Sunnyvale was Councilmember Jim Davis, who didn’t return a phone call last week.

The Sunnyvale ordinance would establish an official city policy position that strongly encourages developers and contractors of “major” private construction projects to hire local labor and pay prevailing wages.

While the local hiring priority would not be mandatory, another element of the emerging Sunnyvale ordinance would be: The use of apprentices, from state-approved apprenticeship programs, on the job.

That part of the ordinance would “ensure that large-scale private developments hire, employ and provide on-the-job training to apprentices,” according to meeting notes provided by the city. The detailed text of the ordinance must still be drawn up and brought back to the council for adoption at a future meeting.

Local hiring and apprentice requirements are already baked into obligations for many public projects as well as private ones receiving government financial support. But they are rarer for private projects that do not receive a public subsidy. Kevin Dayton, a government watchdog and president and CEO of Labor Issues Solutions LLC, said he’s unaware of a similar apprentice mandate in California.