Teamsters 856 is a diverse union of over 12,000 working people throughout Northern California. Local 856 members are zoo keepers, librarians, engineers, city planners, firefighters, hotel workers, airline mechanics, health care workers, and a lot more. And in a manufacturing facility in Hayward, Teamsters 856 members — with a newly ratified contract — can be found making and producing many of the foods found on grocery shelves around the country.
The union has represented workers at the family-owned Wing Nien Foods for decades. When it first opened, Wing Nien was located in San Francisco, but moved to Hayward in 1992. In the early days, the company only made soy sauce, but now the 40 workers Local 856 represents there, cook, test, package, and ship gyoza sauce, curry sauce, pot sticker sauce, sweet and sour sauce, and more. They even produce the popular Kikkoman soy sauce and sauces for large stores like Trader Joes.
Roger Lin is a machine operator who has worked for Wing Nien since around 1982, and is happy with their new agreement with the company. “We haven’t had anything like this before,” said Roger in regards to their new contract. “The raise we got this time gives me more money to spend on my family.”
Roger and his coworkers ratified their new contract just before Christmas last year. The agreement includes a wage increase, retains 100 percent employer paid health care, as well as a 401(k) with employer contributions.
“We want to help this company expand and they have an opportunity to do that,” said Teamsters 856 Legal Counsel Malia Vella, who led negotiations. Malia says Wing Nien was competing for new employees with companies that pay okay, but don’t provide good benefits.
“Now we have a good working environment for the employees, a competitive wage, and earned contributions to the 401(k),” she said. “The employer is putting more money on the table, but also continuing to provide competitive benefits. They are able to compete and get more business, and our union grows stronger by adding more members.”
Teamsters 856 has had a good relationship with the Hall family who owns Wing Nien for decades. The relationship has fostered a family-like environment for Teamster members that can be seen as soon as you walk through the door.
Li Wen Tan is a production operator in the cooking department. He says that so far, he’s enjoyed his seven years with Wing Nien. “I drive in everyday from San Francisco,” he said. “When I come in, I turn on the kettle, put all the raw ingredients in, and start to cook.”
It’s also easy to find workers who have been Wing Nien Teamsters for decades. Run Hua Tan is a cook at Wing Nien, and has worked for the company for 30 years. He remembers when they moved from San Francisco to Hayward. “When they moved in 1992, four or five of us started to carpool in from the city because we live in the same area,” he said.
Since he started, Run has helped three others who came to the U.S. from the same village he is from in China secure jobs at Wing Nien.
Raul Beloso has worked for Wing Nien for 24 years. He works in shipping and receiving — loading and unloading the raw ingredients used to make the sauces and the finished products. “Sometimes we ship out 100 pallets a day, but it’s never the same,” said Raul. “The most we’ve shipped out is four to five truckloads in one day. We like it when it’s busy.”
With members from around the world, speaking many languages, demanding strong contracts, and working together to produce quality products — Wing Nien Teamsters are a part of what makes Teamsters 856 strong.