Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Victory! Teamsters win new pro-worker laws in California

California Gov. Jerry Brown last week signed three bills that will strengthen the state’s labor laws by protecting workers from employer retaliation.

This is a huge win for Teamsters Joint Council 7, which led the legislative battle to get the laws passed. It’s also a big victory for workers like Marquez Brothers employees who have faced harsh retaliation since they voted to become Teamsters last year.

Doug Bloch, political director of Teamsters Joint Council 7, says the trio of laws are the strongest labor protections for immigrant workers in the country:

Under these laws, immigrant workers who speak up now have new legal protections... That's because these laws put civil and criminal penalties in place for employers who threaten workers with immigration enforcement.
The three laws -- AB 263, AB 524 and SB 666 -- prohibit immigration-related retaliation and clarify that threatening to expose workers’ immigration status is extortion.

Marquez Brothers is a perfect example of why these laws are necessary. The cheese company has been ruthlessly intimidating workers at its Hanford, Calif., plant since they joined Teamsters Local 517, refusing to bargain and launching a campaign to get the union decertified.

Brother Bloch explains:

Marquez Brothers is one of the largest distributors of dairy products serving the Latino community in North America. After their workers organized a union, the company responded by bringing in Littler Mendelson, a law firm that touts its ability to advise clients on "union avoidance" and "maintaining a union-free workplace." One strategy Littler excels in involves a classic union-busting strategy: delay and decertify.

Marquez Brothers used the [decertification] petition as a legal justification to withdraw union recognition from the workers. In the year since they first organized, Marquez workers have faced a constant campaign of harassment and intimidation. In March, workers traveled to Sacramento to testify at a legislative hearing on employer intimidation, only to be followed by company management and Littler attorneys. One of the workers was fired shortly after the hearing. She was one of twenty union supporters fired since they organized. Others have quit in the face of a constant barrage of harassment.
The state’s new laws put abusive companies like Marquez Brothers on notice, calling their behavior exactly what it is: criminal.

Teamsters at Marquez Brothers have organized a recertification campaign to beat back the company’s anti-union drive. They filed to recertify the union last month, but that election is on hold pending the reopening of the NLRB after the government shutdown.

Bloch says the legislative victory once again puts California on the cutting-edge of pro-labor reforms. And it also shows that when Teamsters mobilize, we win!

The lobby days and work that many Locals did with their legislators on the ground made a huge difference, along with the high visibility of the Teamsters in the Prop 32 fight last year and the DRIVE contributions we make. This is a real testament to all of our JC7 Locals and members who have stepped up in politics.
This victory wouldn’t have happened without the brave sacrifices made by Marquez Brothers workers who lost their jobs during the campaign. With their trips to the state capitol and talking to the press, they won strong support from state legislators and showed why these anti-retaliation laws needed to be passed.

When companies are able to bully workers on immigration issues in order to suppress their wages and working conditions, it drives down standards for all workers. So this is a big win for all California workers.

And in a time when we find ourselves fighting off anti-worker legislation in so many states, it’s refreshing to score a victory for worker-friendly laws.

Way to go, California Teamsters!