When we fight, we win!

Teamsters 117 Wire

Teamsters at GP Gypsum Ratify 4-Year Contract


Congratulations to our Teamster Brothers and Sisters at GP Gypsum in Tacoma. The group voted yesterday to ratify a new 4-year contract. 

"We are lucky to have these members as a part of our Union."

The vote comes after a challenging contract negotiations process. Back in October, our members voted unanimously to authorize a strike.

Throughout the process, members stood together and displayed their Union pride. Many put large Teamster name labels on their lockers and wore solidarity stickers in the yard.  

"There was more union presence down there, more solidarity" said Shop Steward Skyler Still. "Kris (the group's Rep) came down and got us all together. Then John stepped in during negotiations. We got some high visibility Teamster shirts. We all showed up to a safety committee meeting when something was going on that we didn't like. It was the biggest safety committee turnout in four or five years."

Secretary-Treasurer John Scearcy, who headed up the negotiations, had this to say:

"This group stuck together, supported their Union bargaining committee, and fought hard for critical improvements to their contract. We are lucky to have these members as a part of our Union."

Teamster corrections employees bring their demands to the state capitol


View photos from our Lobby Day event here.

More than two hundred Teamsters working for the Department of Corrections, along with their families and supporters, converged on the State Capitol in Olympia today with a simple message for lawmakers: It's time to invest in the men and women who put their lives on the line to keep our communities safe.

“We’re here to educate legislators about what we do to keep the public safe,” said Sergeant Thomas Orth, who traveled with his wife, Kim, from Spokane to speak with legislators. “They need to be in our boots and see what we do every day because we’re not only protecting ourselves, we’re protecting them and their families.”

Corrections employees talked with legislators about the dangers of prison work while focusing on a few key policy issues.

“Our top priority is to ensure that the state legislature invests in corrections employees by funding their contract,” said John Scearcy, Secretary-Treasurer of Teamsters Local 117. “Corrections employees put their lives on the line to protect the public, yet they are significantly underpaid for the important public safety work they perform.”

David Storaasli joins our staff as a new Union Rep.


David Storaasli and his wife Jessica. David joined our Local 117 staff as a Union Representative in January.

Talk about your experience becoming a Teamster.

I got hired with Waste Management about 20 years ago. I liked it because they were offering “union-like” benefits. When I got the job, they said, “You’re going to be a Teamster.” I was very excited. My father was a Teamster for 48 years with the West Coast Grocery company. My grandfather was an organizer in the ‘30s. Being a Teamster is what our family has always done.

Why did you get involved in the Union in the first place?

I’d been at Waste Management about a year. There was a contract that needed to be negotiated, so I said, “I’ll do it.” From that day forward, I was the Shop Steward.  I learned that if you’re willing to sit down and have a conversation rather than going straight to the FUs, you can actually work through some stuff.

If there is something you can achieve with your members, what would it be?

I love to teach people. Once they learn it, I can say, “Let’s do it. You go forward, you’re in charge of it. If you have a question, ask me.”

"There is always someone within the Teamsters organization that is willing to help you."

We're building a labor organization that really empowers members. We’re trying to do something where we are making a difference.

Court partially blocks the release of your information


We have some good news to report from our legal team’s appearance in court yesterday on behalf of Teamsters at the Department of Corrections.

We were able to successfully obtain a temporary restraining order (TRO) that partially blocks the release of your personal information.

The case involves an individual, Robert Hungerschafer, who is using outdated public records laws to request the full name, job classification, seniority, union membership, bargaining unit, and pay scale of thousands of corrections employees through public disclosure.

The state was prepared to release your information today, but the court granted our motion for a TRO and enjoined the release of some of the information. 

Welcome, Takele Gobena, New Union Representative


Takele Gobena joined our Local 117 staff as a Union Representative on January 23.

We're excited to welcome Takele Gobena, a new Union Representative for members of Teamsters Local 117 working in the private sector.

Takele has dedicated his life to fighting for workers' rights. He advocated for working families in his native Ethiopia; he worked on the campaign to raise the minimum wage in the city of SeaTac; and he has fought to improve conditions for drivers in Seattle's for-hire industry. 

Takele will be representing many of our members at Seatac airport, in the parking industry, and in several other private sector jurisdictions.

Takele describes some of his work and life experiences below:

By Takele Gobena

I was born in a family that emphasized hard work. My passion has always been to improve conditions for workers. 

I moved to the United States from Ethiopia, where I advocated to empower and promote educational access for families living in remote rural areas.

Carrying on the mission of empowering working families and communities, I worked with different East African community members in King County.

In 2013, I proudly helped the campaign to raise the minimum wage to fifteen dollars an hour in the City of SeaTac.

I have lobbied, advocated, and organized the workers in the on-demand transportation industry to have a voice and better working conditions. Our common effort has resulted in producing strong, pro-driver legislation in Seattle, and it has inspired workers in many other cities around the nation and in Canada.

I also had an opportunity to serve as a congressional intern for Washington’s 9th Congressional District in 2016 and as an AmeriCorps VISTA intern in 2015.

I studied politics, philosophy, and economics with a minor in Business Administration at the University of Washington, and graduated in 2016 with a bachelor's degree.

I am excited to work on behalf of the membership of Teamsters Local 117 and look forward to building member power in my jurisdictions!

Welcome Johnnie Uzzell - New Union Rep!


Johnnie Uzzell joined our Local 117 staff as a Union Representative on January 23.

We’re excited to welcome Johnnie Uzzell, a new Union Representative at Teamsters 117.  

Johnnie is outgoing, with a contagious personality. By his own admission, he loves to talk, but he’s a problem solver as well. Johnnie started his new job on January 23. Before joining our Local 117 staff, he worked in the laundry industry at Aramark where he was a Shop Steward. He also worked for four years as a Local 117 driver in the solid waste industry at Rabanco (now Republic).

Johnnie will be representing members in the laundry industry and several other private sector jurisdictions. We sat down with Johnnie and talked about his career as a Teamster and his new job.

Talk about your experience becoming a Teamster.

I was a Teamster at Rabanco for about four years, then moved to a non-Union job. It wasn’t until later that I realized I was missing out on a lot of opportunities. I had no pension, medical was higher. I just had a kid. I thought – maybe I should rethink this Union thing.

How did you get more involved in the Union?

I got back in the Union with Aramark. I noticed how the company did things – big business, big corporation, just railroading people. We fought for some things. Eventually, I decided to run for Shop Steward and I got voted in. I think one of the biggest compliments I got was, “Johnnie, the reason I voted for you is that we might not see eye-to-eye on anything politically, but you still treat me the same as everybody else.”

Lobby Day! DOC Teamsters bringing their voice to Olympia


Next week, more than two hundred Local 117 members working for the Department of Corrections, along with their families and other supporters, will converge on Olympia with a simple message for legislators: It's time to invest in the men and women who put their lives on the line to keep our communities safe.

The event kicks off on Monday with a Legislative Reception at the Red Lion Hotel. Members will talk with lawmakers to discuss critical issues facing corrections employees and their families.

The next day, members will meet face-to-face with their legislators at the State Capitol.

In addition to educating legislators about the dangerous work of corrections, we will focus on a few key policy issues.

Our top priority is for the state legislature to invest in corrections employees by funding their contract. Corrections employees put their lives on the line to protect the public, yet they are significantly underpaid for the important public safety work they perform.

Experienced officers, who represent the largest job classification at the state’s Department of Corrections, earn 37 percent less than officers who work at the county level. Other DOC job classifications are similarly underpaid.

The corrections contract contains wage increases for corrections staff that were awarded by an independent arbitrator and deemed financially feasible by the state’s Office of Financial Management.

We will also be asking the legislature to fund an external audit of staffing levels in all Washington state prisons. The Department of Corrections operates under a staffing model that is dangerously outdated. An external audit would identify parts of the system that are understaffed and make recommendations for improvements.

Finally, we need to fix the Public Records Act to protect the personal information of DOC employees. Many corrections employees are harassed by felons who obtain their information through public disclosure.

A bill (SB 5326) before the Washington State Senate would allow prison staff to seek legal damages if their information is used for nefarious purposes.

If you have registered for this event, you should have received a packet with logistical information and an overview of our legislative priorities. If you have any questions, please contact our Political Coordinator, Dustin Lambro, at 1-800-872-3489 ext. 1262.

Thanks to everyone who is taking time off work and away from your families to attend. This is going to be a great event. See you next week!

Call the Legislative Hotline at 1.800.562.6000 to protect your personal information!


Our bill to modify the Public Records Act to protect your personal information is in danger of not getting a hearing.

The bill (SB 5326) would allow our corrections and law enforcement members to seek legal damages if their personal information, obtained through public disclosure, is used to harass or intimidate them or any other person. 

To save the bill, we need to contact our state senators immediately by calling the Legislative Hotline at 1.800.562.6000. Tell them that Senator Mike Padden, the chair of the Senate Law & Justice Committee, should give the bill a hearing!

If our bill doesn't get a hearing by the end of next week, it will die in committee.

Over 200 DOC members will be meeting with their legislators to discuss this and other critical issues next week at our DOC Legislative Reception and Lobby Day. 

But we can't wait until then to act on our Public Records Act bill, so please call the Legislative Hotline or send your senators an email now!

Please welcome our new associate general counsel, Marie Duarte

Marie.jpgI am excited to announce the hiring of Marie Duarte, our new Associate General Counsel for members of Teamsters Local 117. 

Marie Duarte emigrated from the Dominican Republic to the United States when she was 14. After earning her undergraduate degree in English and American literature, Marie chose to study law at Northeastern University because of the law school’s public interest orientation and abundant opportunities for clinical experience.

"One thing is clear: I stand with workers."

Her interest in labor law blossomed during her first year of law school when she interned for the Cambridge public schools’ general counsel’s office.

“The most interesting and compelling work I did was labor work,” Marie recalls, “but I felt like I was sitting on the wrong side of the table when we went into arbitrations and negotiations. I wanted to side with the employees and the union attorneys.”

To make that shift, Marie interned at SEIU’s Washington, DC headquarters the following year.

“It was a natural fit,” Marie notes. “The work aligned with my values and vision of how the world should work. I believe that every worker in this country should be able to attain social and economic mobility.”

At SEIU, Marie researched and drafted legal memoranda on a wide range of issues, including banking, antitrust, real estate, the Railway Labor Act preemption and matters of first impression under Puerto Rico’s Home Rule Act.

She helped draft legislation that allowed public sector employees to engage in collective bargaining with the city of San Juan. In her third year of law school, Marie was named a Peggy Browning Fellow, which provided her with a summer clerkship at a DC labor firm. There she gained general litigation experience and worked on whistleblower protections, non-compete agreements, the False Claims Act and product liability issues.

After graduating in 2014, Marie went to work for a progressive Seattle-based labor-side firm, where she represented clients in state and federal court, arbitrations and administrative proceedings. She also counseled parties on work stoppages, managed ULP strategies in the context of contract bargaining and organizing drives, and worked on ERISA pension merger and related funding and participation issues.

While in Seattle, she successfully recovered $8.08 million dollars on behalf of workers in Washington and California engaged in a strike, after their employer denied them the compensation to which they were entitled.

After leaving the Northwest to work for a labor law firm in New York, she returned to Seattle for a position at Teamsters Local 117.

“What I love the most about labor law is its diversity. Labor law intersects with race, gender, healthcare, immigration, environmental policy, education and so many other aspects of our society. Workers sometimes don’t realize they are the common thread holding our country together. There is nothing more inspiring than seeing workers come together to bring about signifcant social change.”

Marie will be a tremendous asset to our Union. Please join me in welcoming her to our team.

State to Release DOC Employees’ Information to Unknown Individual Under Outdated Public Records Act


Using a Public Records Act that hasn’t been updated in 45 years, an individual going by the name of Robert Hungerschafer will gain access to the personal information of all DOC employees.

On February 16, the state will release the full name, job classification, seniority, union membership, bargaining unit, pay scale, along with other information of thousands of corrections employees.

The requestor also asked for dates of birth, but the state rejected the request.

Almost nothing is known about this individual, or whom he is affiliated with. We do know that this person or organization has submitted several requests in the past.

Under the current law, the state does not verify the identity of persons making a public records request, so there is no way to know who will receive this information.

Hostage crisis at Delaware DOC ends in tragedy

Brothers and Sisters -

I'm sure many of you have been following the terrible hostage crisis that has been unfolding over the last few days at the Delaware Department of Corrections. 

Four corrections employees were taken hostage at the James T. Vaughn Correctional Center in Smyrna, Delaware on Wednesday.  Authorities were able to negotiate the release of two officers on Thursday. One corrections staff member was ultimately rescued, and one officer was found dead at the facility early this morning.

This tragedy is another stark reminder of the risks you and your co-workers take every day to serve and protect the public. The timing of this incident is especially troubling given its proximity to the 6th anniversary of the death of our fallen Sister, Officer Jayme Biendl, who was murdered on January 29, 2011 at the Monroe Correctional Complex.

Remember that Safe Call Now is an excellent resource if you are looking to have a confidential conversation with a public safety professional who is familiar with your line of work. Their number is 206-459-3020; you can learn more about that organization here.

The public may not understand the risks you face as you perform heroic work to keep our communities safe. That's why it's so important to know that we can lean on each other at times like these and always have each other's backs. 

Thank you for your incredible service to our communities. Please remember to support each other and always stay safe.


Michelle Woodrow
Director of Corrections & Law Enforcement

New DOC members regain hope after uncertain period without representation


Eighteen DOC employees who maintain and operate the McNeil Island ferry joined our Union on Dec. 10.

More groups of unrepresented staff at the Department of Corrections are building power and organizing to join Teamsters.

Eighteen ferry workers who operate and maintain the fleet of vessels that service McNeil Island joined our Union last December. Overwhelming majorities of three other groups – the Correctional Specialists 2s, the Occupational Nurse Consultants, and the Recreational Specialist 4s – have recently filed petitions for certification with the Public Employees Relations Commission (PERC) and are awaiting a ruling from the agency.

The ferry workers are unique in that they were previously represented by another Union. After a turbulent decertification process in 2015, they endured a tough stretch of nearly a year and a half without representation.

“There was a lot of uncertainty, and we lost a lot of benefits. We tried to encourage each other and keep a positive attitude, but it was pretty sketchy for a while,” said Brian Carrigan, a senior deck hand with nearly 10 years of state service.

Carrigan and co-worker, George Luttrell, explained the perils of losing their rights under their contract.

“We lost our clothing allowance and a personal leave day – the State took that away from us,” Luttrell said. The group also lost their right to overtime after eight hours and their right to have sick and annual leave count as compensable hours when calculating overtime.

As much as the lost benefits, the group felt the daily insecurity of not having a voice at work. “It was hard for a while. I feel like a weight has been lifted off of my shoulders,” said shipwright supervisor, Gary Taimanglo.

King County Bargaining - Small Table Demands Meetings

We are in the process of scheduling demands meetings for members at King County to discuss upcoming small table bargaining. This is your opportunity to provide feedback and set priorities as we move into bargaining. 

We have dates set for members in some units. There will be more meetings scheduled over the next few weeks. Check back soon for information about meetings for your group. Thank you! 

Joint Units Agreement 2/7/2017 6:00-7:00AM Cedar Hills - Stores
Joint Units Agreement 2/13/2017 3:30-4:30PM Black Diamond Crew Rm
DNRP WTD PT&A 2/28/2017 12:00-1:00PM West Point Maint. Rm.
WTD PT&A 2/22/2017 2:30-3:30PM King Street - Rm 3E
WTD PT&A 2/22/2017 11:15-12:30PM Cedar River Training Rm.
KC JUA 3/2/2017 6:00-7:00AM Cadman Crew Room


If you have questions, please contact Pat Silvernale at pat.silvernale@teamsters117.org

Heavy equipment mechanic Phillip Howse is refurbishing machinery and lives


Philip Howse surveys abandoned equipment on McNeil Island looking for salvage.

One of the great pleasures of our recent trip to McNeil Island was visiting with Teamsters 117 member Philip Howse, a senior heavy equipment mechanic who has been in state service since 1998.

Howse is a Department of Corrections employee with Correctional Industries (CI). He moved over from DSHS to DOC in 2011 when the state shuttered the prison on the island after over 135 years of operation.

Howse oversees a team of four inmates whom he mentors and trains to refurbish machinery that has been abandoned on the island. 

"We're tearing that transmission apart and putting it back together," says Howse as he shows us around his shop. 

Howse learned his trade while serving in the Marines, then obtained further certification in technical college after leaving the military.

All of the inmates under Howse's supervision are within two years of their release date. "It's important that they learn a skill that can help them get a job when they return to our community," he said. "Our job is to teach them that skill."

After a tour of the shop, Howse sped us around the island. He showed us the water filtration plant, the water treatment plant, and the Special Commitment Center that houses over 200 sex offenders and is operated by the Department of Social and Health Services.

For Howse, a grassy yard with abandoned machinery, is a salvage opportunity for future projects. "We'd like to repair that crane," he said, pointing to a 40-year-old rusting hulk of equipment in the yard. 

Our last stop was a small cemetery where inmates at the prison were buried years ago. The graves were numbered, but the majority were missing nameplates. "It's hard to imagine," Howse said, pointing to one of the headstones. "That was somebody's father, son, or brother. They've been forgotten now."

Howse drove us back through the woods, along the muddy tracks, down to the terminal, where our new members who operate the ferries to the island ushered us on board.

See photos from our trip to McNeil Island here.

Welcome, Carrie Barnett, New Union Rep!


Let's welcome Carrie Barnett, a new Union Rep at Teamsters 117. Before joining our Local 117 staff, Carrie worked in the Transit Division at King County, where she was a Shop Steward and participated in contract negotiations.

Carrie comes from a strong Union family - both her father and brother were active Union members. She has experience lobbying in Olympia, handling grievances, and is a delegate on the Martin Luther King County Labor Council.

Carrie will be representing members at the City of Seattle and several other public and private sector jurisdictions. In January, we sat down with Carrie and talked about her new position at our Local.

Talk about your experience becoming a Teamster.

The thing I noticed when I became a Teamster was the level of solidarity. When I came to my first membership meeting, I saw how many industries were represented in the room. We had DOC, we had grocery, we had bakery workers – all across the board. It was powerful.

Why did you get involved in the Union in the first place?

It’s some genetics – my dad was a union pipefitter from an early age and then became a union rep later in his career; my brother was quick to follow suit. It is my belief that the union’s role is not only to protect the members, but to fight for all workers’ rights.

If there is something you can achieve with your members, what would it be?

I’d like to see our membership expanded. We’re faced with some challenging times. The right-to-work threat is especially troubling by its deceptiveness. I think we can help each other, but if we don’t band together, we’ll be at a loss.

What is special about being a Teamster?

It’s like a second family. You know somebody’s always got your back. I think the Teamsters embody that sense of family.  I have a lot of respect for that.

What do you like to do outside of work?

I’m crafty - I like to crochet and make cards. And I’m active in my church - I play in the handbell choir and do the bookkeeping.