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Recyclers Organize with IWW in Berkeley

[Historical Call to Action - for more information about this shop, visit bayarea.iww.org.]

On Wednesday, February 7, 2001, workers from the Community Conservation Centers "buy-back" recycling center in Berkeley (CCC) voted unanimously (16-0) to join the East Bay Branch of the Industrial Workers of the World. Out of 19 workers eligible to vote (at least one of who was absent) all sixteen that voted chose to vote for the union. The election was officially sanctioned by the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB). The vote took place at the end of the work-day. After the vote was counted, manager Jeff Belchamber assessed the results and declared that "the employees had spoken". The workers then celebrated their victory.

Over the previous four months, the workers at CCC had been organizing a union to win better working conditions, including better pay, more vacation time, specific skill level definitions, and more democracy on the job. An overwhelming majority of workers at the shop had signed union authorization cards calling on the IWW to represent them as their union bargaining agent, and most of them participated in the organizing campaign, even wearing red, IWW union shirts the day before the election.

Workers from CCC and East Bay IWW representatives had approached management with a letter sanctioned by the workers on Wednesday, December 27, 2000. The letter requested voluntary recognition of the union from their employer, Jeff Belchamber. Management refused to voluntarily recognize the union, so both parties prepared for the official, government sponsored election. During the campaign, management remained more or less neutral towards the organizing efforts.

With the vote, CCC becomes the second recycling shop represented by the IWW in Berkeley (and the Bay Area). The workers at CCC, with the help of the IWW, will now begin negotiating a contract with management. The IWW encourages other recyclers in the Bay Area not already represented by a union to organize their shops as well.