by Juan Garcia, a Local 2010 Teamster member
As the 2016 calendar year kicks into full swing, Teamster Local 2010 members are already gearing up for a difficult battle once our 5 year contract expires this November 30 2016. The UC, the 3rd largest employer in California, will stand firm on wanting more concessions from our members, like minimize salary increases and increase the healthcare and pension contributions of workers, even though it is in a better financial state and is getting more funding from the state. We have recent examples of other Teamster locals and education unions where workers have been able to fight concessions and win good contracts, like Chicago Coca-Cola Teamsters Local 727 and Chicago Teachers Union. This is why, this year, we must take steps to educate and organize our members on the contract campaign through forums and actions. Our goal should be to build our union to be able to fight the concessions, and strike if needed.
UC Teamsters are Barely Getting by… and Some are Getting Fired!!!
Local 2010 members at the UC, like other underpaid workers of the UC, have been needing an increase in their salary to meet rising inflation and living costs in their respective cities, especially the UC campuses in Berkeley, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Santa Barbara and Santa Cruz. Our members are the staff that is the core that helps the UC function and run, along with the faculty, lecturers, graduate student instructors/researchers, custodial workers, service workers and technical workers. In contrast to the highly paid upper echelons of administrators, like the UC Regents, President and Chancellors, whose salaries are in the higher six figures, many Clerical workers and Custodial workers have a hard time living in the cities they work in and are barely getting by. It is a big shame when one of the top public higher education university systems is not able to pay a majority of workforce a living wage and the benefits and healthcare they deserve.
The recent budgetary troubles of the Campus Shared Services (CSS) at UC Berkeley and the decision of top administrators there to deal with that by laying off 29 workers illustrates how rough some UC workers have it and how UC administration is mismanaging the university. Though only 7 of these are so far Teamster members, more may be coming if the administration decides it. CSS was the brainchild of top UC administrators and Bain Co. as a plan to save money back in 2009 as part of the “Operation Excellence” (aka Operation Elimination) plan to combine campus services like IT workers, Payroll, Human Resources, Business & Finance and other into one central building. The project cost more to relocate and centralize, and after the 5th year, it still was not able to show even a fraction of the money it was supposed to save. Not only that, but CSS faced dissatisfied faculty and staff who found it more work to request CSS assistance that some departments even decided to hire new people to do the work. In sum, though the UC administration caused a loss of millions of dollars through the CSS project, it decided to balance the budget by downsizing its workforce there (and thus putting more workload and pressure on employees that stayed). Thankfully, our union and other workers there are organizing and preparing a campaign to pressure the administration to rehire the workers and prevent future layoff.
We Need a Contract with Wage Increases & to Keep and Expand our Benefits!
Besides the important increased salaries, Teamsters also have to fightback concessions in the UC’s attempt to weaken our pensions and reduce our healthcare benefits, along with also better job protection and stop increase workload that many members have been experiencing since the 2009 budget cuts period began (when the UC started initiatives to shrink its staff and combine work to “balance” their budget.). On the pension front, the UC Regents and President Janet Napolitano have been discussing to move a lot of its workforce, especially new and recent hires, into 401K pension plans, which are more unstable (due to being part of the stock market) and risky compared to the way current funded pension plans.
As a matter of fact, in 2010 the UC administration privatized the pension fund (which at the time was doing fine), that now is runned by a private multinational corporation Fidelity. This absurd decision is costing a lot of money to UC employees, which now are forced to make increasing contribution to keep their pension, and it is enriching the pockets of the financial investors and speculators.
We have to make sure that our unión is not forced to make concessions on our pensions like the last contract, where it agreed to move to a 2-tier pension system (where new and recent hires have to contribute more to their pensions – i.e. a form of salary cut). We should work on fighting this 2 tier pension system like AFSCME 3299 and UPTE 9119 did and to try to roll it back to how it was before. Thankfully, our unión and other campus unions are currently preparing to fight the UC Regents and Governor Brown’s push to move new hires to 401k pension plans, so we should continue and spread the scope of that campaign.
We’ll Need a Strong Contract Campaign and to Strike!
Our first step should be to recognize the importance of fighting for a good contract in the coming year, and the next step must be on preparing our members and allies for a contract campaign that will be able to pressure the UC to give us what we deserve. Our union will have to start with the basics – involving our rank and file in the contract campaign through educational activities, but also preparing them for all the tools and weapons our union will need to use to get the contract we need – like strikes and work-stoppages. Convincing someone to do these actions takes a lot of work and time, but is possible and we’ve had campus workers, including our union, who have had successful contract campaigns and strikes.
Our union had a good campaign and strike in 2002 and 2005 that were able to gain good contracts. AFSCME 3299 (which represents Custodian and Services workers at the UC) built good contract campaigns between 2009-2014 that involved more members then usually, built strong connections to students and other unions, and won solid salary gains and beat back two tier pension plans. UAW 2865 (which represents Graduate and undergraduate student workers) also won strong contracts and built strong campaigns against the fee hikes and fought the last wave of austerity measures. Another inspiring example is the current campaign that the Student Labor Committee at UC Berkeley has been waging along with AFSCME 3299, to unionize the contracted custodial workers at its football stadium and other locations, where they have been doing weekly organizing meetings, forums, multiple rallies and even a student occupation of 50 students this past May.
Coca-Cola Teamsters in Chicago: a Fighting Example to Follow!
Local 727 Coca-Cola Teamsters in Chicago are a good recent example of a Teamsters Local that was able to build a solid contract campaign and strike and fightback many concessions. Local 727 went on a 4 week strike in Dec. 3, 2015, and reached a deal on Dec. 30th for 319 production and warehouse workers which “includes wage increases and improved health care benefits.” Teamsters there were able to put public pressure on Coca-Cola by doing direct actions like “unfurling banners with the slogans “Don’t Drink Coke’” and “Coke Is A Joke” before Christmas around the city.”
Through this and the 4 week strike, the local was able put enough pressure on the company to agree to improved wage increases, but even more impressive, to cut down the healthcare premium costs almost in half for family, single and two-person plans(e.g. from $80.56 to $38.77 for family health insurance) . This courageous strike is even more impressive given that there are only 319 members in the local, and they pulled it off with minimal support from other Teamster locals and other unions, and also that members there faced intimidation tactics (like one case of where a boss was walking around with a bat).
“When Public Education is Under Attack, What Do We Do, Stand Up, Fight Back!”
Public education institutes have been facing a privatization and austerity wave since 2009 with the reduced investment from California and the federal government, especially for the UCs, who now only receive 10% of it’s money come from state funds). Our union is coming into a contract campaign after 7 years since this most recent wave started, one where our union and other unions faced layoffs, increased workloads, cuts to their pensions and benefits, and a more corporate culture and performance evaluation system. Our union and other campus unions may even have to face an attack on the fair-share membership system if the U.S Supreme Court rules in the Friedrichs v. CTA case.
The battlefield hasn’t gotten friendly in this regard, but the source of our strength still hasn’t changed. It is the active union members, and the potential in those that aren’t active, along with other campus unions, and the students and faculty and wider public we serve. Though the UC works on dividing these sectors, we will need to overcome and unite our struggles. This may require campus workers to make the first steps to put real pressure on the UC administration – like building for work actions, work stoppages and even prepare for a strike. Our union and its members must overcome the difficulty to communicate and outreach to our members and allies, and it will take hard work along the way to get there.
 Teamsters Local 2010 is an affiliate of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters and represents the clerical and allied service workers of the University of California.
 http://apsforupte.org/apvoices/2013-07-17.html ; http://www.independent.com/news/2016/jan/18/living-wages-left-out-library-renovations/
 Our unión was called CUE (Clerical University Employees) and was an independent unión that had split from AFSCME in 1996. More information here: http://www.solidarity-us.org/node/2354