• Warehouse Union Local 6 - affiliated with the International Longshoremen and Warehouse Union (ILWU) –represents workers in warehousing, manufacturing, health care and waste industries throughout the greater San Francisco Bay Area.

    Founded in 1937, Local 6 has proudly sustained its founding principles of democratic control of the union by its members in stern defense of worker rights.

Unilever and the AdeS Case: Why Quality Product Matters to Us and to Consumers

When we met to discuss the addendum, one thing that came out is that we want to able to continue to produce quality product. It makes sense. Clean, good quality product helps us keep our jobs. Recently at a Unilever plant in Brazil, a batch of the popular soy drink AdeS was contaminated with sodium … Continue reading

Unilever Workers Come Together for a Good Contract

Local 6 members at Unilever came together last Saturday to discuss the issues on their addendum. About 15 workers spend the morning debating on how we can make a decent living in a safe job and creating quality product. We debated our strategy and our needs for the coming negotiations. Our Union Representatives have a … Continue reading

Waste Management Workers Strike Against Unfair Practices by the Employer

Local 6 members at Waste Management had to resort to strike action against a vicious employer.  Waste Management used illegal intimidation and has refused to bargain in good faith. The five hour strike was successful in preventing operations at Waste Management for the day. “America won’t work if big companies like Waste Management can break … Continue reading

66th Annual Convention of the Warehouse Union Local 6: Debating Our Future

Lively debate and discussion were the mark of the 66th Annual Convention of the Warehouse Union Local 6. A big focus was the coming Master Contract negotiations, and how to get ourselves ready to fight for a good contract. Now, it’s time to get the Master Contract process going. In March 17th we will be … Continue reading

“Sustainable Recycling” Campaign Kicks Off

Article & Photographs by Kevin Christensen, AFL-CIO  kchriste@aflcio.org Thank you for making the first meeting of the “Sustainable Recycling”   campaign in Alameda County a great success.  With thirty-five attendees from eighteen (18) organizations representing a wide assembly of environmental, worker, community, immigrant rights, workplace health and safety, governmental, faith and legal organizations participating, we took an … Continue reading

Yes on Prop 30 — Schools and Public Safety

Yes on Prop 30 — Take a Stand for Schools and Local Public Safety Article Courtesy of California Labor Federation. Featured Image Courtesy of SEIU.  Yes on 30 Logo Courtesty of UESF. After years of cuts, California’s public schools, universities and local public safety services are at the breaking point. Once renowned for our world-class … Continue reading

Vote No on Proposition 32: No Special Exemptions

Prop. 32: Labor Fights New Attack on Unions and the 99% in California California Labor Federation Blog by Paul Krehbiel Labor and community groups are gearing up to defeat a measure that is on the November ballot in California aimed at crippling the ability of unions to financially support election campaigns. Proposition 32, put on the … Continue reading

In Memory of Avelino “Abba” Ramos

Sunrise: April 12, 1934 Hilo, HI Sunset: June 5, 2012 Richmond, CA Avelino “Abba” Ramos passed away on June 5, 2012 in Richmond, CA at the age of 78. Abba dedicated his life to his family and the worker through his service with the ILWU in Hawaii and California. Abba graduated from the University of … Continue reading

Recycling’s Dirty Little Secret The people who sort our recyclables have dangerous — and sometimes disgusting — jobs. And they’re about to get worse. East Bay Express Article By Jean Tepperman. Photos by Stephen Loewinsohn

Victoria Leon and Sergio Gonzalez have seen some nasty things at their work. The married couple from Oakland has been employed for the past five years at Waste Management’s Davis Street Transfer Station in San Leandro, where they sift through the stuff that East Bay residents put in their recycling bins. Unfortunately, it’s not all cans, bottles, and cardboard. Leon and Gonzalez have seen numerous dead animals roll by on the conveyor belt that passes their sorting stations, including a lot of cats and rats, and, once, two pit bulls. They also have seen medical waste, human feces, needles, batteries, and a variety of mysterious, foul-smelling substances.

“If people just put recycling in the recycling,” Leon said in a recent interview, “that would solve many of the problems.”

But many residents don’t realize the ramifications of putting garbage and other waste in recycling bins. “A lot of us don’t know or don’t think about the fact that human beings sort through” the recycling at transfer stations, such as the one in San Leandro, noted Agustin Ramirez, Northern California organizer for the International Longshore Workers Union (ILWU), which represents about two hundred of the workers at Davis Street.

In one of the buildings at Davis Street, a huge open shed, stuff from the recycling bins moves along a two-story maze of shrieking conveyor belts. Workers sort the recyclables with the help of machines fitted with screens, filters, and optical scanners. But first, some of the workers pick out the non-recyclable trash by hand. “The job we do is dangerous,” Leon said.

Although Waste Management spokesman David Tucker said employees get OSHA-approved protective gear and have not had an accident in more than a year, workers say that sorting through trash exposes them to real hazards. Gonzalez said he was cut one time by a contaminated piece of broken glass. Doctors ended up removing a four-square-inch area of his infected skin.

Needles can jab through the cloth gloves, too, Leon added. And there’s “the dust flying around us,” said Gonzalez. “They give us masks but those don’t filter out fumes from chemicals,” said Martin Reyes, who sorts the material that people bring to Davis Street themselves. “And the dust gets on my clothes, so I take that home — what’s in that dust?” One thing that’s definitely in the dust, Gonzalez said, is particles of glass: “There’s a machine that crunches the glass. They give us special glasses but the glass particles can get past them” and cut workers’ eyes.

In short, workers like Leon, Gonzalez, and Reyes have difficult jobs that pay relatively poorly. And their work could get even more disgusting because of a decision earlier this year by the Oakland City Council. The council approved a controversial plan that would force workers to sift through a large chunk of the city’s garbage — not just the stuff that ends up in recycling bins — in order to dig out food waste to be composted.

Oakland officials say they’re trying to keep as much compostable material out of landfills as possible in order to help fight climate change, but some environmental groups and labor unions say the city’s plan may actually make things worse — not only for low-paid workers who will have to sift through the nasty mess of garbage and food waste, but also for the planet. The city’s plan, critics say, undermines efforts to educate consumers about the importance of composting.

At the same time, Oakland’s plan also serves as an example of a growing issue within the green economy: how to recycle and compost as much waste as possible without harming either the safety or the livelihoods of the frontline workers.

Recycling has come a long way in a relatively short time. A few decades ago, “a precious few in Berkeley and Marin were recycling our wine bottles,” noted Ruth Abbe, a member of the Sierra Club’s Zero Waste Committee. “Now everyone gets a 64-gallon can. It’s great. It’s the democratization of recycling. On the other hand, it’s a challenge getting the word out, educating people to know what’s recyclable and what’s not — winning hearts and minds.”

Over the years, people have gotten pretty good at recycling cans and bottles, although “we still need to do better with paper,” said Oakland’s recycling specialist, Peter Slote. But for many people, the idea of composting — putting food scraps in a separate green bin and processing them to produce fertile soil for growing more food — remains unfamiliar. “We’re still at the beginning stages” of educating the public about composting, said Abbe. “We’re still overcoming the ick factor.”

Single-family homes in Oakland, Berkeley, Alameda, and other East Bay cities now get three bins — for recycling, compost, and trash. But in many businesses and apartment buildings, everything has just been going into the trash. Starting July 1, however, a new Alameda County mandatory recycling ordinance will require most commercial properties and multifamily residences to provide enough recycling bins to accommodate all the recyclables they generate. In two years, by July 1, 2014, all businesses will be included. And they will all have to separate compostables (food scraps and yard waste).

According to the county’s StopWaste agency, about 60 percent of the stuff that now goes into the landfill — valued at $100 million a year — could be recycled or composted. The county’s goal is to get that down to 10 percent by 2020. That’s going to mean a lot more recyclables going through the sorting process at Davis Street, according to Waste Management spokeswoman Karen Stern.

Recycling Workers Say They Are Geting Trashed

Recycling Workers Say They Are Getting Trashed     Oakland Post March 7-13, 2012 When garbage and recy­cling goes out to the curb, most of us do not think about what happens next. Hundreds of Oakland waste workers want to change that by making the public more aware – and their em­ployer more accountable – for the … Continue reading

Forklift Operator Killed At Oakland Recycling Firm Identified

Forklift Operator Killed At Oakland Recycling Firm Identified Copyright CBS San Francisco “OAKLAND (CBS SF) — A forklift operator killed in an accident at a plastic recycling company in Oakland has been identified as Eduardo Martinez Barajas, 34, according to the Alameda County coroner’s bureau. Barajas, an Oakland resident, was killed Thursday morning at Super … Continue reading

N.C.D.C Endorsements for 2012 Election

(Photo Courtesy of Derrick Muhammad for Oakland City Council Campaign Site) The Northern California District Council, affiliated with the ILWU, endorses the following candidates and initiatives on the ballot for the November 2012 general election: Derrick Muhammad (ILWU Local 10 Member), Oakland City Council, District 3 Jane Bruner, Oakland City Attorney Rebecca Kaplan, Oakland City Councilwoman … Continue reading