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A letter from the desk of the Secretary-Treasurer – 2024

I threw my first recycling bin at South San Francisco Scavenger Company in 1998 and loaded my first pack barrel not long after. I had no idea what I was getting myself into, which was evident by the fact that I showed up for my first day of work wearing Nike hiking boots. The soles were worn smooth after two weeks of running alongside a recycling truck. My body felt just as wrecked as my shoes, but it was exhilarating because I went home every day knowing my money was well earned. That job and the people I met performing it changed my life forever.
Lupe, the first person to train me, was (and still is) one of the hardest workers I have ever met. He showed me the ropes in the garbage/recycling industry and taught me how to work hard and have fun while doing it. I still carry all those lessons about hard work with me today; however, it was his personal story that set me on the path to representing the hardest working garbage workers in America.
Like many Local 350 members, Lupe came to the U.S. from Mexico, looking for a job that would allow him to make enough money to raise a family. He tried and failed many times to get into the U.S., and once he was here to stay, cycled through many jobs before he got hired into the garbage industry. He was very matter of fact about the obstacles he faced, never complaining about them. He knew that if he worked hard enough, things would work out. That was his solution to everything, and one of the best lessons I learned from him. He never complained about anything. No matter what happened, he just tightened up his belt and got to work, because he knew complaining about it wouldn’t help. That’s not to say he didn’t speak out when he needed to, because he wasn’t afraid to do so when necessary, but in the moment, he just worked around the problem. I won’t get into the personal details of his story, except to say that his path to that job was much more difficult than mine, and his story along with the stories of many other men and women I worked with, is what made me as passionate as I am today about representing workers in this industry.
About six or seven years into my time as a driver, I became a Shop Steward. That’s what first enabled me to put my passion for fighting for my fellow Local 350 brothers and sisters to work. I knew how hard they worked, and what it took for them to get these jobs. The respect and admiration I gained for all my co-workers during the fifteen years I worked in the industry laid the foundation for me to eventually represent almost 2,500 members of Local 350.
These lessons and experiences have spawned a deeply rooted respect and appreciation for the work our members perform every day. I understand the work because I’ve done it, but the personal stories of how members got these jobs is what really moves me. As I write this, I can hear the heavy rain and wind outside my window, and I know our members are out there working in it. In fact, in my ten years working for Local 350, I’ve never heard one member – not one – complain about working in the elements. Our members show up every day, despite myriad obstacles – weather, road conditions, an ongoing pandemic, crime, proliferation of autonomous vehicles, illness and/or injury – no matter what, customers in our communities can count on their waste being collected and disposed of every day.
Local 350 members are reliable, hard-working, safe, and professional. They’re superb ambassadors for their union and employers, providing vital services to the community. While support for blue-collar workers in society seems to be declining, you prove your worth to your communities every day. Your value to the communities you serve isn’t always recognized or appreciated the way it should be, but I recognize it and appreciate it every day.
It’s an honor and privilege to serve Local 350 members. I take tremendous pride in representing workers in the garbage and recycling, public services, and linen industries, because I know that without you performing these vital functions, things would come to a grinding halt.
I’m truly grateful for what Local 350 members do every day, and I respect and appreciate every single one of you. You inspire me to be better. You motivate me to advocate harder for you to receive the respect you deserve from your employers, elected officials, and the public.
As always, we are committed to fighting for our members to obtain the best possible contracts and protect Teamster families and jobs. We will build on the victories achieved in 2023 and make 2024 another successful year. I hope you all had a l happy holidays, and to a safe, prosperous New Year!
Fight together, win together!
In solidarity,
John Bouchard
Secretary-Treasurer/Principal Officer