Date: Wed, 14 Oct 98 09:44:45 CDT
From: Workers World <>
Organization: WW Publishers
Subject: Immigrant workers win union
Article: 45242
To: undisclosed-recipients:;
Message-ID: <>

Immigrant workers win union

By Gloria La Riva, Workers World,, 15 October 1998

Sixty immigrant workers at California Waste Solutions Co. in west Oakland won union recognition and a contract after a five-week wildcat strike that began Aug. 21. They join over 1,000 workers who have been organized in the last year by the International Longshore and Warehouse Union Local 6 in the East Bay.

The word has spread among mostly immigrant workers in factories along the East Bay corridor that Local 6 is winning contract after contract and union protections.

Local 6 organizer Alfredo Flotte called the Waste Solutions contract a great victory for the 100-percent Latino immigrant workforce. These workers sort bottles and cans and pack them for recycling. It is a rough, dangerous job, and the workers faced unsafe conditions.

The workers had no protection, not even gloves. Their hands were cut, bruised and infected. Many worked up to 80 hours a week with no overtime pay.

With the contract, the workers won basic grievance and seniority rights, union-hall hiring, paid sick days and holidays, health care, overtime pay, and other benefits. They will get a $1 per hour raise immediately and $1.50 more over four years.


Workers at Waste Solutions called Local 6 the morning their walkout began. But their relationship with the union began earlier.

In May, during a union drive with Local 6, the company intimidated workers with threats of INS raids and deportation. The union lost 2-to-1 in a recognition election.

It’s similar to what happened at two other East Bay companies organized by Local 6: Mediacopy and Rubber Stampede. Workers start a union drive; after company intimidation they vote no; then they walk out in wildcat actions after months of frustration with the company.

Flotte explained, When the workers walked out at Waste Solutions, Local 6 and the ILWU showed up right away. We’ve been with them every day of the strike. We even packed an Oakland City Council hearing to demand that the city support the strikers.

On Sept. 29 the company gave in.

The company agreed not to call the INS or require new presentation of ID papers from any strikers. This was a significant victory as well as a great relief to the workers.

Flotte recalled that one worker told him, We wanted to tell you thanks for everything you did. We’re being treated with respect, they gave us gloves, boots, everything we need, things we never had for our work.

They couldn’t believe what it could be like with a union, Flotte said.