SANTA MONICA, Calif. - A string of recent Teamsters organizing victories has added almost 800 new members in seven locations in the last few months. And while the biggest win was in Santa Monica, Calif., the most unusual saw the union "go kosher" - winning an election and a first contract for 15 kosher dining hall workers at the University of Pennsylvania.
The big win saw Santa Monica city trades and maintenance workers vote 237-17 on Sept. 5 for representation by Local 911. The new unit will have 375 members. The win let the Teamsters take over from an unaffiliated group, the Santa Monica Municipal Employees Association.
Wages, working conditions and the prospect of a stronger union were keys to the Santa Monica win. The association also harmed its own campaign when it retaliated against pro-Teamster HVAC tech Aaron Meza, the Southern California Teamster reported.
Local 911 spokesman Carlos Rubio called the win "an incredible victory... Through their unyielding efforts, they have chosen to ensure their future."
The other wins, reported in Teamster magazine, were:
- The 15 Penn kosher dining hall workers voted overwhelmingly to join Local 929. The university's Student Labor Action Project chapter helped their 18-month organizing drive, which garnered 1,000 signatures university-wide on a petition supporting unionization. A month after winning the vote, workers won their first, 3-year, contract, with "significant wage increases in each year, affordable health benefits, paid time off and seniority protection," said Local 929 Secretary-Treasurer John Preston.
- At least 50 tractor-trailer drivers who haul trash for Stafford Transportation in Port Huron, Mich., voted to join Detroit Local 337. The win came even though Stafford broke labor law by firing the main worker-organizer, Mike Williams, for refusing to give Stafford the union representation election authorization cards that NLRB requires.
- Some 204 school bus drivers and monitors in four yards in Santa Rosa County, Fla., joined Local 991, representing yet another win in the union's long-running drive to organize workers for private school bus companies nationwide. The Florida workers toil for Durham School Services, a for-profit firm. Improved safety and working conditions were keys to the win. "It's important for us to have equality and to be treated fairly," added 25-year-driver Kim McLaughlin.
- Some 70 percent of the 112 Toll Group port truck drivers, hostlers and long-haul drivers in New Jersey voted to join Local 469. Most of the drivers work out of the Australian-owned firm's Port of New Jersey yard. "As a Teamster, we will now be able to fight for what we have earned without fear of retribution: A fair day's pay for a hard day's work, affordable medical benefits and real retirement security," driver Fred Schmidt told the magazine. The company's "lies and threats" failed, Local 469 President Fred Potter says. The Teamsters also represent Toll Group drivers in L.A.
- Twelve paratransit dispatchers and call takers at First Transit - yet another for-profit school bus company - in Glenview, Ill., a Chicago suburb, voted to join their First Transit co-workers in nearby Niles as Local 727 members. Overall, the local represents 6,800 people, including hundreds of First Transit workers, in the Chicago area. "We are pleased to welcome our newest members and vow to fight for them at the bargaining table and beyond," Local 727 President John Coli Jr. said.
- Washington Irving's famous Headless Horseman of Sleepy Hollow wasn't a union member in the 1800s - but the workers at that village are now. Clerks, recreation workers, office staffers, crossing guards and parking enforcement personnel for the Westchester County, N.Y., village voted to join Local 456. The local already represents other Westchester county and village workers. And the Sleepy Hollow workers didn't need an election. When they presented union election cards from a majority of the workers to the village board, it voluntarily and unanimously recognized the local.
Photo: Teamsters with Local 911 recently won a contract for 15 kosher dining hall workers at the University of Pennsylvania. Teamsters Local 911 Facebook page