Legislators hear food service union debate 

A rowdy crowd of labor supporters and opponents fought over the mistreatment of service workers at the hands of Guckenheimer Enterprises on Thursday night, as a labor union urged the firm’s contractors to adopt a code of conduct for better wages and benefits.

The Thursday night meeting at Our Redeemer’s Lutheran Church brought together local community leaders and politicians, such as state Sen. Leland Yee, D-San Francisco/San Mateo, and San Mateo County Supervisor Jerry Hill, to hear the workers’ complaints as a boisterous crowd was split between applauding attempts to unionize and defending Guckenheimer Enterprises, a Redwood Shores-based food service company.

More than 50 Guckenheimer employees showed up to support their employer, but the night’s main target was Genentech and other large companies on the Peninsula that use Guckenheimer for food services.

The labor union UNITE HERE, a service workers union, wants to unionize Guckenheimer employees and is pushing Genentech and others to adopt a code of conduct for its contractors to help service workers earn better wages.

On Wednesday night, the South San Francisco City Council adopted a code of conduct that did not target the likes of Genentech specifically.

UNITE HERE has campaigned for the code over the last several weeks, and on March 26, the Daly City Council passed a "socially responsible code of conduct." The code includes standards of fair wages, neutrality toward union organizing, and affordable health care, among other things.

Genentech has said it has its own code of conduct with its contractors and that Guckenheimer endorses those principles, which are fair wages, competitive benefits, fair and equitable treatment of employees and compliance with local, state and federal law.

As workers testified about being too stressed to care for their kids or to poor to pay for school lunches, some booed, disrupting the meeting.

Sonia Moreno, a 37-year-old South City resident with a husband and three daughters, has worked for Guckenheimer for nine years on Genentech’s campus and currently makes $13.43 per hour, an increase from the little more than $7 per hour she started with.

"What we’re looking for is a code of conduct so we would have more respect, fare wages and a voice," Moreno said. She said she was not afraid of losing her job but perhaps those backing Guckenheimer were. The company chartered buses to bring in supporters to the community forum.

"Maybe the people outside are, and that’s why they’re here," Moreno said of those walking around with yellow "No Union" T-shirts.

Damonn White, a 15-year employee of Guckenheimer, said he felt "attacked" by the union and the company "provided an excellent opportunity for advancement."

Added Jerry Hermsen, "I don’t think the union could provide anything that we don’t already have."

dsmith@examiner.com

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