Union members and their allies held a series of rallies Monday in the South Bay to demand better pay and working conditions. The demonstrations were part of a multi-state campaign to mark the nation’s 124th annual Labor Day.
SEIU Local 521 organized the local rallies, driving a few hundred people by school buses first to McDonald’s on North First Street in San Jose, where protesters marched through the restaurant with drums and a bullhorn to demand a $15 minimum wage.
Protesters then bused to Dell’s offices in Santa Clara, where they called out the corporation for terminating janitors after they unionized last year and replacing them with cheaper part-time workers.
Organizers saved what they called the “worst” for last: the Community Child Care Council of Santa Clara County, known as 4Cs or the 4C Council. Employees of the $45 million-a-year taxpayer funded child care nonprofit slammed the agency for retaliation, financial mismanagement dragging out contract negotiations for two years.
“I’ve been in this business, in finance, for 43 years of my career, so when you give me the number, I know how to balance it,” 4Cs accountant and union negotiator Fred Brion said from a podium outside of the nonprofit’s north San Jose headquarters. “When we give them the number," he added, pointing in the direction of the main office, “they don’t know how to balance it.”
Mario Del Castillo, who spent 20 years at the nonprofit before getting fired this summer, said he and his colleagues voted in 2015 to unionize because they were sick of the rampant retaliation and impropriety.
“Because of this, the members decided that it was time to get a voice,” he said.
Del Castillo said his recent termination was retaliation for his involvement in the union and for being so outspoken about the 4C Council’s mismanagement.
“That is why we need unions,” he said.
As the employees continue to fight for their inaugural labor agreement, the home-based child care providers who work on a contract basis for 4Cs are leading their own campaign to unionize. Like many professions dominated by women, the child care industry is characterized by low pay and few benefits. State law classifies the residential providers as private businesses, so they have no pensions, no health care and no right to unionize.
The effort to organize the South Bay’s child care providers is laying the groundwork for a statewide reforms, according to SEIU official Kristy Sermersheim.
“We are not babysitters,” 4Cs child care provider Lorena Wright said outside the nonprofit’s offices. “We are educators.”
See below for scenes from the South Bay Labor Day rallies. All photos by Bernie Bob Jung, unless otherwise noted.