By Georgette Carrillo and Cruz Serna
IBEW Local 1245 members Georgette Carrillo, Cruz Serna, Rey Mendoza and Valdemar Guzman have been working on the No on Measure G” campaign in Fresno since May 11 and are gearing up for Get-Out-the —Vote effort in the closing days of the election, which is June 4. All four are Service Reps at PG&E’s Fresno Call Center.
In an attempt to privatize the City of Fresno’s residential solid waste program and eliminate union jobs, Mayor Ashley Swearengin, is encouraging voters to pass Measure G on a special election on June 4. If approved by voters, Measure G would privatize solid waste services to Mid Valley Disposal, whereas this service is currently provided by union workers.
In an effort to help save union jobs, we have partnered with the Fresno Labor Council with the goal of defeating this ill-advised measure. Measure G is viewed as an anti-union tactic to further the mayor’s political agenda. If approved, union workers would have their wages slashed by 25 percent and would have their benefits greatly reduced. Additionally, Mid Valley Disposal is only guaranteeing their employment for a single year.
The mayor’s selling point to voters is that customers would see a savings of approximately 17 percent on their trash bill. Although enticing to voters, she fails to disclose that it is an eight-year contract and that after the initial two years, rates can be increased. One need to look no further than comparable cities that have privatized trash services to know that monthly rates will undoubtedly be increased to more than what we currently pay. In addition, the City’s contract with Mid Valley Disposal calls for the latter to purchase the City’s equipment, including trash trucks and bins, at heavily discounted prices, to the tune of $50 million in assets for a measly $10 million! It is worth noting that ratepayers purchased this equipment, at market value, which in turn will be handed to a private company. Furthermore, if there were a breach of contract by Mid Valley Disposal, the City would have to rent back the same equipment that it is practically donating to Mid Valley Disposal at steeply-discounted prices.
In an effort to cajole voters, the mayor, like a seasoned politician, has threatened cuts to public safety if Measure G fails. In response, the Fresno Police Union has offered $8.3 million in concessions to avert cuts; however, the mayor has adamantly denied their overtures. The mayor has also threatened bankruptcy, but many believe that this would be extremely difficult, if not impossible, considering that the City has many assets.
It is well documented that Fresno is in a conservative area and not particularly friendly towards unions. Staying true to her political affiliation, the mayor and the ‘yes’ campaign contend that the No on Measure G” campaign is being funded by overpaid” union members and bosses.” This is a gross distortion of the facts. The No on Measure G” campaign is comprised of a relatively small number of paid staff and is largely made up of grass roots volunteers who have the public’s interest in mind.
The IBEW Local 1245 team has been diligently working on the campaign for over two weeks, and will continue until June 4. Our goal is to educate the public and fellow union members about Measure G. We have been conducting precinct walks, phone banking, and spreading the message: NO on Measure G.” We have been collaborating with other like-minded unions with the common goal of defeating Measure G. We have also had our family members assisting us with the campaign.
Another advantage for our campaign is that Fresno has an award winning residential waste program and is widely recognized as a leader in refuse collection and recycling. The existing program is self-sustaining and requires that the City not charge any more than what the true costs are. In other words, the City cannot charge additional fees and use the money for other programs besides trash collection. This ensures extremely low fees to the public. Measure G, if passed, will allow a big company to exploit the citizens of Fresno at the expense of hard-working men and women, and help boost the career of an anti-union politician.
During our efforts we have been fortunate to have met many trash collection workers. Each has been passionate, caring and sincere and we are confident that this same level of passion is carried over to their work. Our participation in this campaign has allowed us to broaden our skills, so in the future we can utilize these skills when needed for IBEW 1245. We are extremely dedicated to defeating Measure G, and have put our hearts and passion into our work. In addition, we are stronger as a collective rather than as individuals, and we are extremely proud to assist other union members as we may need them in the future.