May 9, 2007: In a wake-up call to wastehaul Teamsters, Waste Management forced through healthcare cuts on 150 Teamsters in Corona, Calif. after Local 396 officials failed to take action to stop labor law violations by the company.
Waste Management has been attacking Teamster health benefits across the country in an effort to get all employees paying for a portion of their healthcare. Entering contract negotiations, Corona Teamsters had a top health plan with no co-pays and were uniting to keep it that way.
They organized a series of actions to win a strong contract. Bargaining committee members held contract unity meetings that were attended by nearly everyone in the bargaining unit. Members signed a petition saying no to healthcare cuts.
When the District Manager for all of Southern California came to the yard in Chino, Calif. to hold a safety meeting, he saw a room full of Teamsters all wearing stickers that said, “Don’t Trash Our Healthcare.”
“We wanted the company to know that we would stick together to win a strong contract and a better future for our families,” said Daniel Barrios, a driver from the Corona yard. “We stepped up. But our union representatives didn’t back us up.”
When negotiations resumed, management presented its first and final economic offer—a blatant violation of their obligation under federal law to bargain in good faith. The company held captive audience meetings and threatened Teamsters that they would lose their jobs if the contract didn’t pass—another violation of the law.
Instead of filing unfair labor practice charges, Local 396 held a last-minute ratification vote without even holding a meeting to inform and unite the members. The concessionary contract passed by just one vote, 76 to 75.
Under the new five-year agreement, members were moved into an inferior Teamster health plan. Even worse, the company’s benefit contributions will only increase by three to five percent a year even though the cost of healthcare is rising by eight to 15 percent.
Under the contract, members will have to pay out of pocket to cover the difference. As a result, members could be paying well over $200 a month to cover their healthcare by the end of the contract "Our union representatives were laughing at us after they counted the votes, but I don’t see anything funny about it. This contract is going to hurt our families and weaken the bargaining power of Local 396 members whose contracts expire this fall,” said Pedro Pelayo, a roll-off driver from the Chino yard.
“If we want to win improvements in the waste industry, then rank-and-file Teamsters need to organize ourselves so we have a strong voice and the power to vote down contracts that move us backwards,” said Isidro Valdivia, a driver from Chino. “I’ll do whatever I can to help my fellow Teamsters in LA County so they don’t go through what we just did.”