The Supreme Court ruling in Janus case may attempt to divide the working people, but the last word is with us. Read amazing stories of unity and power in face of this unjust attack in our summer edition of Teamster Talk. Read the summer edition here.
Michael Rodriguez, a utility worker at the City of Pacific, says being part of a union makes his work a lot less difficult. Despite it being a demanding, frequently hazardous occupation, his membership in Teamsters 117 alleviates the work stress that a majority of Americans deal with on daily basis.
When speaking of stress at work, managerial and executive occupations come to mind, yet one of the highest predictors of workplace stress is lack of control over working conditions coupled with high demand. Inability to have a say in work hours and conditions of employment have profound health consequences resulting in heart attack rates three times higher than a random sample. Furthermore, job insecurity increases poor health by an incredible 50%, while long work hours contribute to increased mortality by almost 20%.
Americans today work longer hours, take less vacation and receive less pay for higher productivity which is coupled with towering rates of stress-related illnesses. In return for an opportunity to earn a living, we often relinquish our ability to have a say in conditions of employment and wages earned. It is the union that brings democracy back to the workplace and gives some of the control back to the workers. This power does not accrue overnight but is built upon years of collective bargaining and building of trust and solidarity among the workers.
For Rodriguez, building unity was worth it. “People frequently regard smaller cities as a stepping stone for other jobs with more pay and better opportunities,” he says. “But over the years we have negotiated strong contracts and workers stay.”
"We will not let anyone break what we have achieved here through years of solidarity."
His co-worker, Bill Brookhart, agrees. “As an individual alone you cannot stand up to the corporation. I have worked in non-unionized places, and there is no guarantee of or ability to negotiate job security, benefits, vacation or sick leave. I’m a diabetic and am insulin dependent. Having a good, union-negotiated health insurance makes a tremendous difference for me.”
Faced with the Supreme Court ruling on Janus, there was no hesitation among City of Pacific employees – every one of them chose to stand together as Teamsters. They have considered the effect that division could have on their contract negotiations and their power at work. The conclusion they came to was unanimous.
“You are either with us or you’re out,” said Rodriguez. “We will not let anyone break what we have achieved here through years of solidarity.”
Taylor comes from a Teamster tradition. Her grandfather was a Teamster, and her father got his first Teamsters job when she was three years old. Growing up, Taylor saw first hand the effect a union job had on the family which allowed her mother to spend more time with her and her four siblings.
Taylor is a familiar face at the Teamsters hall. She has been on administrative staff for almost two years and now is making the transition to represent a mix of private and public shops. Knowing the internal workings of the membership is a valuable resource to her, and she is excited to take on this new challenge.
As a Teamster, Taylor has given back to the community by volunteering at Tacoma Ethnic Fest, the Emergency Food Network and Paint Tacoma Beautiful. Later on, she helped organize the Teamsters Toy Drive and Family Volunteer Day. She co-chairs our strategic planning committee's political priority. To take a break from her dedicated union work, she takes long walks with her English Bulldog.
We are thrilled for Taylor growing her talents on our team and wish her the best of luck in her new role!
Sisters and Brothers,
Amazon recently announced a wage increase to a minimum of $15 for all of its workers. This decision is a direct result of public and political pressure on the company as reports of worker abuse and safety violations are mounting. However, the giant internet retailer is free to display a public act of generosity while simultaneously cutting employees’ bonuses and stock awards. This happens because the company is not held accountable internally for the decisions taken which directly affect the employees.
The Teamsters shop that you are working at, at one point, had no union. The workers at that location had to make the daunting decision to change how things are. They risked their position and their families' livelihoods to stand together as one and break through their employer’s resistance. They demanded that their right to negotiate with the employer for wages, working conditions, and benefits be recognized, and they won their fight.
We cannot forget these fights, and many of us never do. Our Sisters and Brothers who keep our union strong step out of the daily routine to advocate for co-workers. These are the shop stewards and member leaders who understand that our strength is in our unity and that solidarity is our weapon. They have the same work and family obligations as the rest of us, but they choose to lead, learn, and stand up for fairness at work. They sit through contract negotiations, dispel anti-union propaganda, and constantly organize their peers for strength.
At the membership meeting in September, we honored many members who sat on the negotiations committees and the graduates of our first ever Teamsters Leadership Academy who dedicated their time for eight months to cultivate their leadership and worker advocacy skills. It is important that we all recognize the hard work, passion, and dedication of members who step up to the task and become the advocates of our union to keep us strong and move us forward.
Workers need unions, and our children who are entering the workforce depend on today’s Teamsters to keep our union strong just as we depended on the Teamsters that came before us. Let us never forget that we stand on the shoulders of our predecessors and it is our duty to preserve and build upon their efforts.
Our union team gathers on the first day of contract negotiations with the SuperValu.
Teamsters at Supervalu were having none of it. The company had brought in out-of-town temps to operate forklifts at its distribution center in Tacoma. The temps were being prepped to do Teamster work in a Teamster warehouse. It was a classic case of skimming and, if allowed, would set a dangerous precedent just as our group was heading into contract negotiations.
The shop steward on shift, Anthony McKinney, drew a firm line with management. "I talked to the GM, Steve LaBard, and expressed how I felt about having temps in our facility," he said. LaBard promised to send them home.
But the next day the temps were back again. At the start of his shift, McKinney was pulled into the office by the West Regional VP, who told him the company's plans had changed: The temps would no longer be used to operate forklifts; they would train our members on the forklifts instead.
Forklift training, as McKinney knew, is also Local 117 work. The skimming violation would still be in play as long as the temps remained in the warehouse. Clearly, the company had not gotten the message.
That's when McKinney and another shop steward, Greg Wiest, made the call. If the temps stayed, all 80 Teamsters on swing shift were going to walk. The stewards would give the company until 3:25pm to get the temps off of facility property.
Word spread quickly through the warehouse. The crew gathered outside the office, while McKinney, Wiest, and other rank-and-file leaders went in to deliver the message to management. "We told them how we were being disrespected, how we weren't being listened to, and that we were going to walk," Wiest said.
"I don't think they expected the solidarity that our group showed."
The mangers were flummoxed, the deadline passed, and just like that the group shut down one of the largest grocery distribution centers in the Pacific Northwest.
With their entire workforce on the way out, the company had no choice but to capitulate. They agreed to get the temps off the floor. But the stewards weren't taking any chances. "We wanted to see them walk off the property before going back to work," Wiest said. So management rounded up the temps and walked them out.
After the action, there were a lot of high fives and handshaking. Word spread to graveyard and day shift. The story of the workers' resolve will likely ripple across the grocery industry. It is especially remarkable given that they had just finished navigating the impact of a merger with Unified Grocers that added dozens of Local 117 members to the warehouse a few months ago.
For McKinney and Wiest, the group's unity sends a powerful message to the company that Teamsters will fight to maintain standards in the grocery industry as we head into contract negotiations this month. The company had tried to capitalize on the perceived divisions, but had underestimated us. "I don't think they expected the solidarity that our group showed," McKinney said.
As the U.S. Supreme Court announces its ruling in the Janus case, corporate powerbrokers are hoping to use the decision to divide workers who dare belong to a union. They are expecting union members will act against their own self-interest because nothing benefits the employer more than when workers abandon their collective power to stand up for fairness in the workplace.
Those efforts have failed with Teamsters at Tacoma Public Library where every member has pledged commitment to their coworkers and to remain a union member. It is a futile exercise to misinform a librarian. Shannon Rich is a supervisor at the main Tacoma branch and a fourth generation Teamster. She finds the narrative absurd that abandoning her union is beneficial to her in any way.
“That’s the whole nature of the union – the constant giving back and forth among its members,” she says. “Together we build the working class, and we cannot do it without standing all as one. People like the Koch brothers and other corporations know that. This is the only way they figured out to put a wedge in people’s unity. Yet it will only be effective if we let them.”
It took an extensive fight to bring the union to her workplace and most people who work there remember. The library strongly opposed their workers efforts to unionize, yet they prevailed. Maria Shackles, a manager at the Wheelock branch, refers to the grueling history of unions fighting for human rights at work as her reason to distance herself from the Supreme Court ruling and remain a Teamster.
"Together we build the working class, and we cannot do it without standing all as one."
“I want to honor the work of people who came before us who have made huge sacrifices over the history of our country for progress of workers’ rights. Now we are reaping the benefits of the union, and I feel really lucky. The underlying organizers who pushed for the Janus case are corporations that don’t want to acknowledge the positive changes unions bring to the economy.”
It is these benefits that Shannon credits for being the first in her family to attend college and passing this privilege on to her daughter. She says she is one of the few lucky people who take pleasure in their work. Yet her individual dedication and skill is not enough to make the Tacoma Library a safe place to work at. In the wake of mass shootings, it took collective action to convince the management to institute safety procedures and training at the library.
In the new era of open shop, Shannon knows the way to protect her union and their hard-earned wins is countering misinformation.
“Our job is to get as much information to as many people as we can reach, which is vital to our society. We, the workers at the library, are the backbone of that. The union helps workers understand that they are valuable as individuals and provides the means for a democratic workplace.”
Learn more at www.familystrengthcommunity.org.
"It's Our Union - And We'll Fight For It!" That's what Teamsters at Sysco are saying.
Today Local 117 members took part in a National Day of Action. The group of drivers and warehouse workers wore solidarity stickers & put signs in their vehicles in support of our Brothers & Sisters at Local 866 in Oklahoma where the company has fired two shop stewards & are trying to break the union.
The show of unity and support of fellow Teamsters across the country comes just a few weeks before contract negotiations with Sysco kick off this summer.
Our members are ready to fight for a contract that respects the critical work they do to house and supply food services products throughout our region.
Today the U.S. Supreme Court issued a ruling in a case, Janus v AFSCME, which threatens our ability as union members to stand together for strong contracts and strong communities.
As expected, the Court overturned a 40-year precedent that protected our freedom to have a united voice at work and ensured that all of us contribute our fair share for the improvements we win together.
Despite the Court’s ruling, our union is resilient and remains strong. We have been preparing for this outcome for over a year with our Family – Strength – Community program. By sticking together, we can continue to improve our wages and protect our rights at work.
The Court may have ruled against us in the Janus case, but as Teamsters we decide how strong our union will be. We will not let the Court or anyone else break our commitment to each other.
WHO’S ATTACKING OUR UNION?
It’s important to remember who is behind this attack on our freedom. For years, wealthy special interests like the so-called “Freedom” Foundation have been trying to destroy our union.
The "Freedom" Foundation lobbied against wage increases for state employees. They oppose our right to paid sick leave and our right to a secure retirement through defined benefit pension plans. We fought their attempts to obtain your personal information through public disclosure.
In the coming weeks, the "Freedom" Foundation may try to convince you to abandon your union membership by saying you can "opt out". They may send mail to your home, contact you on the phone, or even knock on your door.
They'll say you have nothing to lose. The truth is you have everything to lose – your contract, your health benefits, and your rights at work.
But if we stay united, we can continue to win improvements in our workplaces and for our families.
WHAT YOU CAN DO TO STAY STRONG!
- Wear your "We Decide" solidarity stickers this week at work - you can get them from your shop steward;
- Sign a card committing to your co-workers;
- Attend a Janus Decision Day Solidarity Rally in Tacoma or Seattle;
- Share a post on Facebook or Twitter about why you support our union using the hashtag #UnionStrong;
- Talk to your co-workers about the “Freedom” Foundation's anti-union agenda;
- Visit our union’s website at FamilyStrengthCommunity.org for more information.
Thank you for your service to our communities and for your membership in Teamsters 117.
Check out this video of Shannon Rich talking about the need for union members to stay united. Shanoon is a Local 117 member at the Tacoma Public Library:
Teamsters who work at Impark celebrate their new four-year contract.
We all came together as Teamsters. For Awgaw Fanta, a Local 117 parking attendant, who operates two garages in downtown Seattle, that was the highlight of this weekend's contract win.
Fanta is a shop steward who serves on our union's negotiations committee that has been meeting with the employer since April.
This Saturday, Fanta and his co-workers had the opportunity to vote on a fully-recommended settlement offer. The four-year agreement was overwhelmingly ratified by the group.
Members will see wage and pension increases in each year of the contract, maintenance of their health and welfare benefits, and a new shoe allowance for some classifications.
"Everybody is happy to get a raise," Fanta said. "It's an important thing for us. It helps our families."
"Everybody is happy to get a raise... It helps our families."
For Fanta, the group's unity was key to their success. Members stuck together, attended union meetings, and supported their negotiations committee that worked long hours to achieve improvements to the contract.
"Takele and Paul fought really hard for us," Fanta said, referring to the union negotiators assigned to the group.
"Our members at Impark provide essential services to commuters and tourists coming to park in the downtown Seattle core," said John Scearcy, Local 117 Secretary-Treasurer. "They deserve fair pay to support their families, just working conditions and a secure retirement. By sticking together, they have achieved a contract they can be proud of."
We are expecting a ruling any day in the Janus v AFSCME court case. The case is an attempt to undermine the freedom of working people to have a meaningful voice at work.
It is the culmination of hundreds of millions of dollars spent by anti-worker corporate billionaires to weaken unions. But their efforts will fail.
Over the last few months, Teamsters across our union have learned about this attack by talking to each other. Thousands have signed cards committing to stay strong and stick together. You can join them by signing the online commitment card here.
As Teamsters, we know the value of strong unions to stand up to wealthy special interest groups who are using Janus to rig the economy against workers.
No court can take away our ability to stand together for fair pay, better benefits, and safe working conditions. The court may decide against us in the Janus case, but as Teamsters, we decide how strong our union will be.
Our union negotiations team for DOC wore read to protest the State's proposal to restrict our access to vacation leave.
It was a sea of red at our DOC negotiations this week. Members of our union’s bargaining committee were decked out in red T-shirts, red caps, red sweatshirts and blouses. Our team had deliberately coordinated our dress to protest the State’s proposal to restrict our access to vacation leave.
In the previous negotiations session, the State sought changes to the vacation leave article (Article 21) in our contract to allow DOC management to discipline members who make certain kinds of vacation requests by defining it as unscheduled leave.
Our team was united in rejecting the proposal. To show our unity and send a message to the State, the group decided to wear red for this session. All members participated in the action.
On Thursday, the State made a stab at another idea that was unanimously opposed by our negotiations team. The State proposed designating Visiting as a Specialized Unit.
There are a couple of problems with that. Not only would it erode our bid system and strip members of their right to work in those areas, it wouldn’t address the problems they claim they’re trying to solve.
Local 117 Secretary-Treasurer John Scearcy’s stature as a labor leader in our region continues to grow.
This week, Scearcy was elected as a trustee on the association of the Seattle Labor Temple. The nine-member group is charged with overseeing one of the Emerald City’s most historic landmarks.
“I’m very excited to be working with John Scearcy on the new Seattle Labor Temple,” said Nicole Grant, Executive Secretary-Treasurer of the Martin Luther King Central Labor Council (MLKCLC). “John is an amazing addition to this team because he comes from the rank-and-file and truly understands what workers are looking for in a community center.”
The iconic building in the heart of downtown Seattle has been the central gathering space for the labor movement since 1942. It is home to the MLKCLC, which represents 150 unions of more than 100,000 workers, along with an active food bank and 30 additional tenants.
Scearcy joins at a critical juncture as the association grapples with how to manage the transition to a new home for the Labor Temple. His election brings growing influence for Local 117 members and comes on the heels of being recognized as Best Principal Officer of an affiliate labor union by the MLKCCLC at its 130 anniversary celebration in February.
“It is an honor to serve on this association,” Scearcy said. “I am committed to working in solidarity to ensure that the labor movement in our region has a dynamic home for the future where workers can come to build power.”
Our union negotiations team for DOC reacted with anger and disbelief at the State's proposal on vacation leave.
DOC contract negotiations erupted this week when the State presented a proposal seeking to punish members for taking time off from work to spend with their families.
The proposal involves the vacation leave article (Article 21) of our DOC contract. Currently, members have the ability to request accrued vacation in excess of ten consecutive days in three segments per year with the exception of the summer months. This gives members the flexibility to schedule longer stretches of vacation to help mitigate the stress of working inside the prisons.
The State’s proposal would restrict the number of vacation days per segment for the entire year as opposed to the limited restriction between June and August, which exists currently. The employer also wants the ability to discipline members by defining certain vacation requests as unscheduled leave.
“How can they punish us for using vacation time that we’ve accrued? It’s outrageous,” said Teresa Bennett, a pharmacy tech on our union’s negotiations team.
"How can they punish us for using vacation time that we’ve accrued? It’s outrageous."
The State also presented a blatantly anti-union proposal, trying to modify Article 2 to restrict new members access to their union.
The time with new members is critical because it allows shop stewards and union reps to convey the hard-fought victories we have achieved through our union membership, like interest arbitration in our contract, extending assault benefits, and the across-the-board wage increases of 20.3% over the last four years.
At the negotiations table, our union team spoke forcefully about the need to preserve our existing rights under both Article 21 and Article 2. We also pushed the employer to take greater responsibility for reducing scheduling errors that can lead to excessive mandatory overtime.
It’s important to remember that without a union the State could unilaterally implement policy changes that would undermine your rights at work, such as their outrageous proposal to discipline you for using vacation leave.
If you haven’t done so already, please sign a commitment card so that we can preserve our rights as union members to stand together for a strong contract. By signing you are sending a clear message to the State that we are committed to each other and we are united. You can sign online at: www.FamilyStrengthCommunity.org/sign.
Our next negotiations session will be held on June 20 and June 21 at our Teamsters Union Hall in Tukwila. If you have questions, talk to your negotiations committee member or union rep.
You can view a short video update from members on the negotiations committee below:
If you ask a credential specialist at SeaTac Airport whether the Janus v. AFSCME case will threaten their union’s strength, they would chuckle and shake their head. Not on their watch.
This U.S. Supreme Court decision is expected to drop anytime between now and the end of June and set restrictions on the freedom and unity of working people. Yet this intrepid group that works on the mezzanine level of SeaTac Airport and handles the task of ensuring trustworthiness of airport employees has already made their decision.
"We will remain union members. We refuse to be divided."
“We will remain union members. We refuse to be divided,” said Maryanne Davis who has worked at the airport for over 18 years.
The credential specialists have fought hard for their current wages and benefits. Many of them remember when their entire group was fired several years ago and stayed out of work for months. They persevered until everyone was reinstated. This diverse group knows how important every person is to the security of the team, so every member has committed to remain a Teamster regardless of the Supreme Court ruling.
Now they are the middle of contract negotiations and Marilee Fisher, who is a shop steward and part of the negotiations committee, shared her opinion. “I believe in my union. I will always be a union supporter. As unions fight for better wages and better conditions, workers’ lives and pay improve even in non-union workplaces. If it weren’t for the unions, we would have no middle class.”
TEAMSTERS AT WORK AND IN THE COMMUNITY
We are excited to launch our new Teamsters contest!
Let's celebrate the work that Teamsters do every day. We are builders, caregivers, protectors, and public servants. Teamsters have a hand in almost every aspect of our lives from forging steel for the Space Needle to delivering food to grocery store shelves to running animal shelters. When our work day is done, we engage our communities by volunteering, organizing events and donating. Let's share what we do by creating a calendar of images of Teamsters in the community and at work.
How to Participate*
1. Take a picture of your coworkers while working at their job or participating in community events.
2. Give your picture a title.
3. Write a brief description of what is going on in the picture, names of people in it, and the date it was taken.
4. Include your name, employer and phone number in the email.
5. Send the photo and the information to us!
Email firstname.lastname@example.org or share it with your union representative.
* You must be a member of Teamsters 117 in good standing to enter.
The photos will be posted on Facebook and the winning photos will be voted on by fellow Teamsters and their families. Bonus points if a Teamsters logo appears in the picture.
We will select 12 photos to be put into a 2019 Teamsters calendar. All winners will get copies of the calendar.
DEADLINE FOR SUBMISSIONS IS OCTOBER 15.
What are you waiting for? Start taking pictures!
Tips for a winning photo
Lighting makes a great picture. Let plenty of light fall on your subject, (but not to the point they are squinting at the sun!)
Think of what you want to show. Close in to show emotions on the face or small details. Step back for a bigger picture. Think of a different angle by crouching or taking a shot from above.
Take several shots, and then pick the best.
Since we are creating a horizontal calendar, take pictures in "landscape" orientation.
Send it to us in the largest size available!
Remember, the winning images must size to 8.5x11" while maintaining good quality. If your image looks too blurry, dark or pixellated, take another snap!