11/8/07

Politicians back strikers in month 5

Leaders representing the county of Alameda and the State of California gathered on the picket lines at Valley Power in San Leandro on Monday to show their support to striking workers.

Workers of Valley Power in San Leandro went on strike on July 10 in protest of unfair labor practices they say the company engaged in. When the company took over Stewart and Stevenson in 2005 they revoked workers’ pension plans, health, and fringe benefits. Workers still walk the line shouting their mantra “What we want is what we had,” and on Monday they used their bullhorns to educate the greater bay area of what they say are safety hazards.

The strike has now become an opportunity for workers to bring light to their concerns about public safety. Striking workers say that in their absence, Valley Power has been using uncertified replacement workers to do repairs on dozens of ferries, fire trucks and buses.

Upon servicing a Vallejo ferry, the new Valley Power workers took three times as long, and the repairs resulted in a catastrophic failure, says Operating Engineers District 3 (OE3) representative Pete Figuredo.

“We took a stand as a government agency and are not sending busses to this facility,” said Alameda County Transit Director at large Rebecca Kaplan. “We need training and consistency. Someone with real experience will do a better job.”

John Hanley, president of the San Francisco Firefighters Department said he came to support the striking workers and help bring light to this injustice.

In the five months that the strike has endured, workers have taken part-time jobs to support themselves while they wait for a response from Valley Power. Despite letters from Mayor Santos and other civic leaders, Valley Power has not commented on the strike or discussed their plans for a resolution.

Executive Secretary-Treasurer of the California Labor Federation, Art Pulaski admonished Valley Power’s business practices which he says are a violation of federal law.

Before everyone retired back to the picket lines, California State Assembly Member Lonie Hancock shared a most passionate message of support to the crowd.

“You’re fighting for one of the hallmarks of civilization, the ability to retire with a pension and with dignity,” said Hancock. “We want to ensure safety for the people who wait for that fire truck or bus.”

Valley Power did not return phone calls by the time the Times went to press on Wednesday.

(sanleandrotimes.com)

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