Close to Home: The best response to Trump: Pass SB54

By Mara Ventura
The Press Democrat

September 8, 2017

Sometime today, Senate Bill 54, the California Values Act, is expected to make its way to the Assembly for a vote before, hopefully, landing on Gov. Jerry Brown’s desk for his signature. The stated purpose of SB 54, introduced and sponsored by Senate President Pro Tempore Kevin De León is to “protect the safety and well-being of all Californians by ensuring that state and local resources are not used to fuel mass deportations, separate families and ultimately hurt California’s economy.” In other words, SB 54 would build a wall between California law enforcement agencies and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement creating a “santuary state.”

One of the more pernicious elements of the Trump administration’s immigration enforcement policies has been the targeting of undocumented individuals in public and civic spaces, such as schools, hospitals and courts. SB 54 would establish these places as safe zones. The negative impacts of immigration enforcement are well known: children kept out of school, families not seeking proper health care, putting all of us at risk, and unreported crime.

A study by the Department of Urban Planning and Policy at the University of Illinois found that “70 percent of undocumented immigrants reported that they are less likely to contact law enforcement authorities if they were the victims of a crime.” This legislation would create clear and strong boundaries between our local law enforcement agencies and federal immigration enforcement and would further protect victims, largely women, who fear coming forward about crime due to fear of deportation or detention.



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.


Up with Trash!

By Leilani Clark
Made Local Magazine
September/October 2017

Teamsters, labor leaders, and environmentalists unite to demand local waste management companies make a commitment to living wage jobs, worker safety, and environmentally friendly practices.

Twenty-seven years ago—at   the urging of his brothers who had found jobs with a local waste management company— Patricio Estupiñan immigrated from his hometown in Central Mexico to Sonoma County. Within no time, he was hired to drive a garbage truck. When the company eventually sold to the Ratto Group, a subsidiary of North Bay Corporation, the county’s largest waste hauler with service to eight of nine cities, Estupiñan, now married with two children, was earning $24.70 an hour with benefits. 

After the sale, things deteriorated. First, Estupiñan’s hourly wage was cut by one dollar, a loss that he calculates cost him thousands of dollars a year. Then, he realized he was being paid more than the employees who were already with the Ratto Group, and they grumbled about rarely receiving raises. The two-tier wage system bothered him. Why should two people do the same amount of work and not receive similar pay? 

“Three or four drivers tried to do something about it and got fired,” he tells me over coffee on a Saturday afternoon in Roseland. “[The management] told people, ‘If you want a raise, there’s the door.’” 

Close to Home: A local good news story for Labor Day

By Ofelia Cardenas and Juanita Galipo
The Press Democrat
September 3, 2017

We work as a housekeeper and banquet server, respectively, at the Hyatt Vineyard Creek hotel in Santa Rosa. We are both mothers and Santa Rosa residents.

This Labor Day, we are celebrating a victory that will immediately benefit us and about 50 of our coworkers at the Hyatt, but which we hope will spread to hospitality workers throughout the North Bay.

 Last month, together with a majority of our coworkers, we chose to join a union, and management respected our choice. That may sound like an unremarkable series of events, but in fact it is extraordinary. Most of the time, when workers try to organize a union, they face vicious resistance from their employer. The path to unionization winds through a minefield of intimidation and retaliation, and many workers who set out down that path never make it, either because they get fired or because the entire organizing campaign is defeated.

Labor supporters mark holiday with union gains in Sonoma County

By Guy Kovner
The Press Democrat
September 2, 2017

A year ago, Patricio Estupiñan called the Teamsters, seeking help improving wages, equipment and job safety at the Sonoma County garbage company where he has worked for 25 years.

“We need to get respect. A better life, everything,” Estupiñan said Friday during a short break from driving a street sweeper in Cotati.

It led to a union organizing campaign at the Ratto Group, the county’s dominant trash hauler. In May, Estupiñan and his co-workers — about 400 drivers, mechanics, customer service reps and others — voted to join Teamsters Local 665.

The vote culminated more than 20 years of efforts by the Teamsters to unionize Sonoma County’s waste and recycling workers. It would be the first in a string of high-profile victories this summer by unions in Sonoma County, where an estimated 1 in 5 workers are represented by organized labor groups.

In June, the Santa Rosa Junior College Board of Trustees agreed to negotiate a deal that would set union rules and benefits for a planned large campus construction project, despite intense opposition from non-union construction interests.

Then, in August, more than 50 workers at the Hyatt Vineyard Creek hotel in Santa Rosa — housekeepers, servers, cooks, dishwashers and others — voted to join UNITE HERE Local 2850, a hospitality workers’ union.

“I’d say the union movement is alive and strong in Sonoma County and growing,” said Jack Buckhorn, executive director of the Santa Rosa-based North Bay Labor Council. “We’re going to fight for any worker who wants to have a higher standard of living.”