For Adrian Gutierrez and his colleagues at the San Mateo Transit District, organizing to become Teamsters was relatively easy — most likely because their colleagues in the other three Teamsters 856 bargaining units at the District paved the way for them through hard-fought campaigns for union recognition. Gutierrez and his fellow maintenance supervisors, unanimously signed authorization cards last year and the District voluntarily recognized the union, waiving its right to force employees to hold an election. So it was somewhat surprising when the District took a hard stance in contract negotiations, making proposals that seemingly targeted Gutierrez – who spearheaded the push to become Teamsters – and proposed language that mimicked other District groups, not taking into account the unique role of the maintenance supervisors.
“I didn’t forget about the District’s sacrifice when they hired me in tough economic times,” Gutierrez said. “But we didn’t have a clear path for advancement and we needed a voice,” he said, explaining why he wanted to form a union with his colleagues.
Negotiations were drawn out for more than a year, but the group stood strong, refusing to back down and in May, a tentative agreement was reached. And on June 1, the group ratified their first Teamster contract, which includes substantial wage increases – with a clear wage schedule instead of hazy salary bands the previously used by the District – an end to mandated furlough days, longevity pay, shift differentials, and perhaps most importantly, language that protects working conditions.
“We have clarity now – a direct path to where we’re going,” said Bargaining Committee Member David Parsons.
Gutierrez said it was all worth it. “I was willing to do what was best for the group, for the greater good,” he said.
“A person’s character really comes out in negotiations,” said Teamsters 856 Representative Tim Jenkins, who served as lead negotiator. “Adrian and David held firm at the bargaining table and didn’t back down in order to do the right thing for their colleagues. It’s not only admirable, it’s what being in a union is all about,” he said.