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The Visalia Monologues: Why Would the Teamsters Attempt to Sabotage 200 Jobs?

As hard as it is to believe, there are unions that would rather see people unemployed than have them work at a company that the union doesn’t like. The Teamsters is apparently one of those unions.

In Visalia, California, a company would like to build 500,000 square-foot medical products distribution center in an industrial park. The company had reached an agreement with the City to build the DC in 2009. It is properly zoned, so that is not a question. However, none of this matters to the Teamsters’ union, which is trying a last-ditch attempt to block the project.

Although California’s unemployment rate is among the highest in the nation at about 12.4%, Visalia’s unemployment is actually higher than the state’s average with nearly 16% of Visalia and the surrounding area unemployed. So, one would think that a union like the Teamsters would welcome the 200 jobs that would be created by adding a 500,000 square-foot DC in the area.

After all, building a 500,000 sq. ft DC would employ concrete workers, cement-truck drivers, laborers, carpenters, electricians, drywallers, painters, and more—not to mention the hundred or so lift operators, warehouse and office workers and managers that would be employed at the DC after it is built. You would think the Teamsters would want all those people to have jobs, right?

Apparently, that’s not the case:

The Teamsters union says city officials should be careful about a company that wants to build a 500,000-square-foot medical-products distribution center in northwest Visalia.

The Teamsters, which has about 700 members living in the Visalia area, told the Visalia City Council this week that the company could bring negative environmental and worker-safety implications.

[snip]

“This is a matter of the public’s right to know,” said Doug Bloch, political director of San Francisco-based Teamsters Joint Council No. 7. “We ask that the city of Visalia find out more about a facility of this size, and how it affects the environment, worker safety and air quality.”

So, the Teamsters want the City Council to ‘be careful’ about the Company and how it affects the ‘environment, worker safety and air quality.’ To that end, the Teamsters were so generous to have paid (with their members’ money, of course) to have a report prepared two days before the City Council’s meeting.

Matt Hagemann, a Santa Monica-based environmental engineer, provided a report for the Teamsters. His report, dated Dec. 20, stated that such a 500,000-square-foot facility “has the potential to generate emissions of oxides of nitrogen at levels above the 10 tons/year threshold that has been established by the San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District.” [Emphasis added.]

A distribution center that has the potential…Um…yeah…okay. [There are FBI agents who believe there is a potential to find Hoffa alive and well (in Brazil)...but that's for a different post.]

It seems obvious the Teamsters don’t want the DC built but, as is usually the case, it’s not for altruistic reasons. So, what gives? What is the Teamsters’ ulterior motive?

A quick search of the company’s name, VWR International, shows that it is owned by a private-equity firm called Madison Dearborn Partners—a company that, according to the Teamsters, has reversed “more than 50 years of productive and cooperative relations with workers and their union.”

In other words, there is a potential that the Teamsters doesn’t like VWR’s parent company and, therefore, the union will do all that it can to prevent the company from building a new facility—especially, since it looks like the new facility may be replacing an existing union DC with non-union workers. Of course, that’s just a potential.

So, with unemployment at near 16%, the Teamsters appear ready to kill a 500,000 sq. ft DC in Visalia that would employ—and it bears repeating here—concrete workers, cement-truck drivers, laborers, carpenters, electricians, drywallers, painters, and more (many of them likely union construction tradesmen)—not to mention the hundred or so lift operators, warehouse and office workers and managers that would be employed at the DC after it is built, because of a fight with the parent company.

Hopefully, the City of Visalia isn’t taking the Teamsters’ “concern” too seriously.

_________________

“I bring reason to your ears, and, in language as plain as ABC, hold up truth to your eyes.” Thomas Paine, December 23, 1776

X-posted.

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