Sisters, Brothers, Siblings -
“Look for me, feel my presence,” Tracey Thompson invited all members of Teamsters 117. “My body is tired, but my soul is open. I’ll be there laughing, loving, and fighting forever and always.”
Tracey Thompson, former Secretary-Treasurer of Teamsters 117, died peacefully in her home yesterday after demonstrating how wonderfully one can live with cancer for over a decade.
Tracey was a dear friend, inspirational mentor, and the fiercest labor leader I have ever known. She was beloved for her compassion, courage, and fortitude. She changed the world for the better, and she never stopped fighting to improve the lives of our members.
There are so many ways we can look for Tracey. Though her physical presence has left us, her indomitable spirit remains. With her words, she asks us to draw on her strength. She has marked our Union forever.
Tracey was a trailblazer in the Teamsters Union. She was the first woman to serve as Secretary-Treasurer in the history of our Local Union and the first on the Executive Board of Teamsters Joint Council 28. She pushed our Local Union, Joint Council, and the International Union toward greater inclusiveness, equity, and a refusal to compromise over the righteous demands of our members. She set us on a course to win strong contracts, and she made the fight for social justice a cornerstone of our Local Union’s mission.
Under Tracey’s leadership, we organized an entire industry of taxi and ridehail drivers, work that continues to thrive today with our new Drivers Union and has brought higher pay and benefits to tens of thousands of mostly immigrant workers. Tracey spearheaded the effort to secure interest arbitration rights for Teamsters at the Department of Corrections, which has improved the lives and dramatically expanded the bargaining power of 6,000 of our members at DOC.
Tracey fearlessly stood up to corporate bullies like Coke and UNFI, winning victories for Teamsters in four tough strikes. She had the foresight to establish a Local Union strike fund during an economic downturn, which empowered our members and protected them from the concessionary demands of unscrupulous employers. She was a tenacious negotiator, heading up bargains that resulted in some of the strongest contracts our Union has ever seen.
All of us who knew and loved Tracey has a story to tell about how she fought for our members. For me, the one that stands out is when she rose in defense of a small group of shuttlers at SeaTac airport. These were mostly Muslim workers, whose employer wanted to revoke their constitutional right to pray during their breaks. At the time, people of Muslim faith were facing rampant discrimination in our country. Tracey never wavered. She organized a press conference in the employer’s backyard and publicly lifted our members’ First Amendment rights. The case got national media attention. Criticism poured in to our Local from across the country. Tracey held her ground and stood by those workers to the end.
A great lover of quotes, Tracey once picked out memorable ones to reflect the spirit of all 45 staff members of our Union. Recognizing the best in us, she read the quotes one by one and presented us with gifts of appreciation. As we commemorate her life, I think of the words of the poet Audrey Lourde:
“When I dare to be powerful and use my strength in the service of my vision, then it becomes less and less important whether I am afraid.”
Tracey urged us to “Always strive for dignity and respect in the workplace as you all deserve.” Her legacy reaches deep into our hearts and touches us in the most powerful ways. She led our Union with immeasurable compassion and love. She was a fearless warrior for workers who never backed down. Her courage and her immense capacity for love inspire us and give us strength as we fight for a better, more dignified world.
Remember to always look for her.
In loving memory and solidarity,
In lieu of flowers, Tracey’s family asks that any donations in her name be sent to Orion, an organization that provides healing support for cancer patients or to the Teamsters 117 Solidarity Scholarship here. You can view photos of Tracey during her time at Teamsters Local 117 here. You can read a tribute from Tracey's family here.
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