Residents of Oakland’s Fruitvale neighborhood woke up Saturday morning, May 3rd, to find dozens of ILWU volunteers busy cleaning their streets, hauling away trash and planting new trees and flowers.
Helping those who help us
The May 3rd effort was jointly organized by Oakland City Council member Noel Gallo and the ILWU. Gallo has won respect in his working class council district by spending most weekends dressed in work clothes, helping residents haul-away huge piles of illegally-dumped trash. Besides fighting for more city services and stable funding for municipal employees to do those jobs, Gallo is a strong advocate for workers’ rights and has taken a personal interest in helping Oakland’s low-wage recycling workers win better pay and more respect.
Previous successful effort
Six weeks earlier, ILWU members pitched-in to assist another “friend-of-working families” who serves on the Oakland City Council: Lynette Gibson McElhaney. She organized an impressive community clean-up in her Council District on March 22 that included trash collection and tree trimming. Like Gallo and Council member Dan Kalb, McElhaney has been helping Oakland’s low-wage recycling workers by backing a Council resolution that calls on City recycling contractors to dramatically improve pay for recycling workers.
Building public support
Local 10 Business Agent Richard Mead encouraged Longshore volunteers to join the clean-up because so many members live in Oakland and work at the Port. Mead thanked Local 10 volunteers for participating and explained how supporting community clean-up campaigns can help build public support for union causes – including the Longshore contract that is now being negotiated.
Recycling worker power
Oakland’s low-wage recycling workers have been volunteering at several community clean-ups during the past year. “We’re working with the City Council to try and improve our wages, so it makes sense to help with these community projects,” said Mirella Jauregui, a recycler who works for Waste Management and encouraged her coworkers to participate.
ACI workers mobilize
An even larger contingent of volunteers came from Alameda County Industries (ACI), where employees are organizing with the ILWU to build a union and stop the company from cheating them out of pay and benefits.
ACI has been violating the City of San Leandro’s “living wage” ordinance for years by paying a few pennies over minimum wage – .30 an hour – and providing no health benefits. Marlene Guzman was one of sixteen current and former ACI workers who attended the event Children and family members were encouraged to attend the May 3rd clean-up that honored two important dates: May Day that honors working families and Cinco de Mayo, that honors the popular Mexican holiday.
After the clean-up, food and drinks were served, everyone was thanked, and important relationships were built between workers, neighbors and elected officials.