Good Jobs and Zero Waste Now!

by Martin J. Bennett
Sonoma County Gazette
August 29, 2017

 Sonoma County residents have an historic opportunity to address two of America’s most critical 21st century issues: one is soaring economic inequality and the explosion of low-wage jobs paying less than $15 an hour; the other is global warming and the imperative to drastically reduce greenhouse gas emissions by ending our reliance on fossil fuel.  California communities have addressed both crises with “good jobs and zero waste” policies.

 Two May 2017 events spotlight this opportunity for Sonoma County.  First, after a five-month organizing drive for waste management workers, 400 drivers and recycling and clerical workers employed by the Ratto Group--North Bay’s largest waste management company--voted overwhelmingly to join Teamsters 665.  North Bay Jobs with Justice supported the drive, working closely with the Teamsters to build a broad coalition of labor, environmental, and community organizations.   

 Second, more than 100 business, environmental and labor organization representatives attended the first Zero Waste Symposium in the County, organized by Sustainable North Bay.  Participants discussed how wastes could be recycled, reused, and composted, to divert 90 percent or more from landfills and incinerators.


Close to Home: PLAs Are Simply Good Policy

By Martin J. Bennett
The Press Democrat
July 28, 2017

The Santa Rosa Junior College Board of Trustees in May approved the first steps toward creating a Project Labor Agreement (PLA) for new construction at the college. Former college Vice-President Curt Groninga and former trustee Rick Call, the North Coast Builders Exchange (NCBE), and the Press Democrat editorial board all opposed the board approving a pilot PLA—prior to a decision to adopt a permanent PLA policy.

As a full-time instructor at the college for more than two decades, I strongly support PLAs.

Good public policy must be based on peer reviewed, empirical research. However, during the JC debate about PLAs, critics chose to ignore the most recent academic research about PLAs’ benefits for both college and community.

It’s time to set the record straight.

Read More

Close to Home: Staffing crisis at Sonoma County Superior Court

By Matt Myres
The Press Democrat
July 9, 2017

A crisis is unfolding at the Superior Court of Sonoma County that should concern every resident of the county. In January, the North Bay Workers Rights Board, a project of North Bay Jobs with Justice, held a hearing about the working conditions of employees at the court. The workers are represented by SEIU Local 1021. Testimony by workers to a panel of community leaders revealed widespread discontent and declining morale at the courts due to inadequate staffing and a dramatic increase in workloads.

Several themes were evident in the testimony.

 First, understaffing has eroded the quality of court services and limited public access. The number of court reporters has dropped from 22 in 2010 to 13 today, which has caused delays in court proceedings. Court reporters have to rush from one courtroom to another and often arrive late for their next assignment. Attorneys, their clients and the judge may have to wait as long as an hour for the court reporter to arrive. Attorneys often charge clients for the wait, and, if public defenders are assigned to a defendant, the taxpayer foots the bill.

Short staffing also has meant longer lines at the Hall of Justice to process legal documents and to pay fees and fines — and the front counter closes at 3:30 p.m. instead of 5 p.m. due to inadequate staffing. Court workers must professionally serve residents who are understandably upset by long waits and limited access to the court.


A copy of the Workers' Rights Board "Report on the Hearing and Investigation of the Working Conditions of Sonoma Superior Court Workers" is available here.

Ratto Rising: Local Workers in Waste-Management Industry Score a Victory
By Martin J. Bennett
North Bay Bohemian
June 21, 2017

Amidst the mounting scandals and the unraveling of the Trump administration – the most anti-labor presidency since Ronald Reagan – there was an important victory for the labor movement in Sonoma County.

On May 19th, drivers, mechanics, recycling, and clerical workers employed by North Bay Corporation (a subsidiary of the Ratto Group), voted to join Teamsters Local 665 by a 271 – 31 margin in a National Labor Relations Board election. 

North Bay Corporation had won waste-management contracts for the county and most cities by delivering rock bottom rates. However, an auditor for the City of Santa Rosa in 2016 found that the company is out of compliance with terms of the franchise agreement, including failure to rebuild an aging fleet of polluting and unsafe garbage trucks, inability to meet minimal rates of recycling and diversion from landfills, poor customer service, and operating a substandard recycling facility. 

Many county residents are unaware that Rattos’  ‘always lower prices’ are possible because the company pays less than a prevailing industry wage for drivers and barely above minimum wage for recycling workers.



Teamsters advocating for better Sonoma County garbage operations
By Kevin McCallum
The Press Democrat
June 28, 2017