As much as some try to lump us together, Local 117 Teamsters come in all stripes, and all political persuasions. Take Tracy Dillard, for example, who works maintaining streets and landscapes at the City of Tacoma.
“I identify as a conservative,” Dillard says. “Growing up in a strict Southern Baptist household, we learned that it’s fine to give people a helping hand, but not a hand out.”
FORMER SMALL BUSINESS OWNER
Before coming to the City, Dillard ran his own landscaping business. He hired temporary laborers, some of whom were down on their luck. “I helped them by giving them an opportunity to help themselves,” he said.
Dillard believes the Union should take the same approach with the City. “When we go into negotiations, a lot of us ask, ‘What is the City going to give us?’ I think that’s the wrong question. Instead, we should be asking, ‘How can we improve our skills and knowledge base so that we can make ourselves more valuable employees?”
Not everyone agrees with Dillard’s approach to the Union. When he ran for Shop Steward last year, Dillard’s politics were an issue for some. If you vote for him, you might as well be voting for management, his detractors said.
Dillard, who ultimately became a Steward, disagreed. “I’m fair when it comes to enforcing the contract. I can have my conservative viewpoint, see the value of the Union, and understand the issues that come up.”
PROTECTING YOUR RIGHTS UNDER THE CONTRACT
Dillard takes his job as Shop Steward seriously and holds the City accountable when it violates the agreement. “At the beginning, I had trouble getting people to accept me. But now I think they’re starting to see that I am looking out for the crew.”
In the end, being in a Union is about having a voice. Dillard recognizes that. At points during his 11-year career, he’s felt like he had a target on his back, just because he wasn’t afraid of speaking his mind.
For Union members like Dillard, having a voice unites us and levels the playing field. It ensures that we have some say over our working conditions and that we can speak up without the fear of getting fired – no matter what our politics.