Teamsters face first roadblock in unionizing shuttle drivers

Two years ago, San Francisco’s eviction crisis spurred the first Google bus protests and drew national attention.

Now, the tech shuttle-stopping tactic is being employed again — this time to defend the shuttle drivers.

Early Tuesday morning, more than 40 members of various Teamsters unions stopped tech shuttles on Valencia and 24th streets, the same corner of the first shuttle protests in 2013.

“We don’t get no justice? Then you don’t get no buses!” the Teamsters shouted as they blocked a Bauer’s Intelligent Transportation bus from moving, and another soon after.

The first stopped Bauer’s shuttle was chartered by video game-maker Electronic Arts. The second was chartered by tech giant Cisco Systems.

The protest comes on the heels of a federal complaint that alleges Bauer’s Intelligent Transportation intimidated its drivers who are considering forming a union.

Bauer’s management then photographed and wrote down the names of its drivers to dissuade them from joining the Teamsters, the union alleged.

Bauer’s did not return calls for comment.

“We believe drivers deserve fair treatment,” said Rome Aloise, principal officer of Teamsters Local 853. “And Bauer’s is the worst of the worst.”

Bauer’s is considered the first major roadblock in the path to Silicon Valley unionization.

The Teamsters have almost overnight recruited many of the shuttle drivers who transport tech workers from San Francisco to the South Bay. Just two weeks ago, Compass Transportation drivers voted to join the Teamsters. Compass provides shuttle services to companies like Apple, eBay, Yahoo! and Zynga.

The Teamsters are especially pushing for added pay during the downtime between morning and evening commute “split shifts,” said Mark Gleason, from Teamsters Local 665. Drivers began discussing forming a union in March, he said.

“Immediately Bauer’s started spying on the workers,” Gleason said. “We need an election to decide if these workers want a union or not, but [Bauer’s] is fighting back very aggressively.”

Bauer’s drivers, in general, make about $16 an hour. But Gleason said union drivers make about $24 an hour.

“Everyone understands income inequality nowadays,” Gleason said. But Bauer’s drivers’ medical packages are “basically nonexistent,” he said.

Aloise told the San Francisco Examiner that Teamsters may repeat the protests until Bauer’s backs off. This may potentially include a protest of the shuttle at the 49ers new Levi’s Stadium, Aloise said.

The National Labor Relations Board is set to hear from both Bauer’s and the Teamsters in September.

If Bauer’s is found at fault, it could run afoul of the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency’s recently passed “labor harmony” resolution, which directs shuttle companies that are part of The City’s Commuter Shuttle Pilot Program to maintain good relations with its unions.

Back at the protest, Aloise shouted to the teamsters, “We will win this battle!” Then they dispersed.

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