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In San Leandro ACI terrorizes immigrant workers
Date 14/02/28/11:22

In San Leandro, CA ACI violates living wage ordinance, terrorizes immigrant workers and outsources ILWU Local 6 jobs
by Richard Mellor, Afscme Local 444, retired

I WENT TO a rally at the Alameda County Industries headquarters today. ACI has a contract with the City of San Leandro to collect garbage. The company has a unionized workforce, members of the ILWU local 6. ACI also hire mostly immigrant workers through an agency named Select, workers that I can only assume do the less skilled jobs. These workers are not in the union. For those outside the US, San Leandro is just south of Oakland on the east side of the San Francisco Bay.

The living wage ordinance says that “Applicable businesses must comply with the provisions of the ordinance when they enter into a lease, contract or concessionaire or other agreement with the City of San Leandro or when an existing agreement is amended to benefit the business.” The wage is $14 .17 an hour or slightly less if the employer pays benefits valued at least $1.50 an hour.

Since 2007 when the ordinance was introduced, ACI has been paying these contracted workers as low as $8 an hour and some of them have been employed by the company as long as 17 years; they have been underpaid all that time of course. When a group of workers approached the bosses about this violation of the city ordinance and demanded the proper pay and back money due them, the company called immigration and called workers in to check their papers and immigration status. This is obviously retaliation but regardless, it shows the complete contempt bosses have for working people who have given years of their lives at starvation wages to a company. Profits come from the unpaid labor of the worker regardless of what a piece of paper says about our status. These workers or any worker no matter what their status, contribute far more to society than wasters like Donald Trump or Kim Kardashian.

One aspect of this struggle though is the union. During the rally their were chants of workers unite and stuff like that. The immigrant workers that joined the rally on their break time did so after the bosses said they would be fired. This took tremendous courage. But what about the unionized workers? Surely they have complaints, if they don’t they are the only workers in the country that don’t. And although I know nothing about the agency that finds this labor for the bosses, surely they take a cut. While it is important to ensure laws that violate workers' rights, undocumented or not, are not violated, the low waged workers should be part of the union and not hired through an agency that takes a cut. The issue of retaliation for immigration status as well as low wages should be linked to the issues facing the regular unionized workers in Local 6.

If there wasn’t one made there should have been an effort to bring the unionized workers out for the rally as well. But to make this work, demands that address the issues all workers at the company face have to be raised, this is the way to link the two groups. This has to be an ongoing campaign to unite native born workers, immigrant workers and undocumented workers in the struggle against the attempts by the 1% to drive us all in to poverty. The problem is as I have written time and time again on this blog and I’m sure folks get tired of it, is that the entire labor leadership does not believe gains can be made because the employers rights are sacrosanct; it’s all just a matter of the level of greed and the boss being "fair".

There was a strike at the Ford Dealership here in San Leandro that we pointed to recently. The union leaders took them out for two weeks for nothing then sent them back for a “cooling off” period when things should have heated up, for the boss that is. Immigrant workers’ struggles are our struggles. We are all under attack, the higher paid workers as well. In fact, it is as important to fight for the higher paid as the benchmark for all of us, this is why the auto workers defeats are so important and the UAW leadership’s complicity in them so disgraceful.

An injury to one is an injury to all is perhaps one of the most well known slogans of the US Labor movement and working class. But it has to be more than just a slogan.

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