Church Supports Workers

Alameda County Industries (ACI), the company that provides trash pickup service to the Island City, has found itself in the middle of a labor dispute. Some of the company’s workers walked off their jobs and staged a two-hour rally last Thursday at its recycling center on Aladdin Avenue in San Leandro. According to those who attended the rally, ACI told its other workers that anyone who joined the rally would be fired.

"The immigrant workers that joined the rally on their break time did so after the bosses said they would be fired," stated retired union representative Richard Mellor on his blog.

Mellor attended the rally to support the workers when the workers complained about their working conditions according to a video posted on Mellor’s blog. ACI called the federal government’s Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) San Francisco office in retaliation.

According to activist Austin Tam, who sent an email to the community, the workers, who are all immigrants, have garnered the attention of some 65 community groups. These include activists at the Buena Vista United Methodist Church in Alameda.

The church is appealing to residents to contact the federal government’s San Francisco ICE office on its behalf to at least delay any action that ICE might take against the workers.

"These workers need the support of an action from the community," Tam stated. If these immigrants lose their jobs, they could subject themselves to deportation.

According to Tam’s email, an agreement between the United States Department of Justice and ICE protects workers engaged in efforts to protect job rights involving wage and hour violations.

The immigrants, many who have worked for ACI for as many as 15 years are protesting low wages of $8.30 an hour with no benefits; ACI’s refusal to honor San Leandro’s living wage of $14.17 an hour and notices from the company to many of the workers that they will lose their jobs immediately because they lack proper employment documentation.

Companies contracting with the city of San Leandro are required to adhere to that city’s living-wage ordinance. The activists pointed out that ACI does have a contract with that city to collect the trash and that ACI is skirting the city’s living wage provision by hiring workers as "temporaries," even though many stay on the job for long periods.

According to Tam’s email, Select, the temporary agency who hired the workers, and ACI have now agreed to request that ICE delay enforcement. Neither Select nor ACI would comment on any of these developments and the activists involved do not yet know if ICE would grant this extension.

The church is asking Alamedans to pick up the telephone and call the ICE regional office on its behalf. Let ICE know that you are calling on behalf of the Buena Vista United Methodist Church and that you support the delay that Select and ACI are requesting. ICE can be reached at (415) 844-5455.

The church is supporting the delay because these workers are engaged in legal actions to stop wage and hour violations.

Recycling workers at the Waste Management facility on Davis Street in San Leandro walked off their jobs last April to protest alleged low wages and dangerous conditions. At the time these workers were earning $12.67.