Hope is defined as a feeling of expectation and desire for a certain thing to happen. With this said, this word is often used without understanding the emphasis and importance it deserves.
In November, I truly experienced a life-changing event that not only taught me its true meaning but taught me new things about myself. I was blessed with the opportunity to join the International Brotherhood of Teamsters in organizing the Las Vegas Clark County School District support staff under the Teamsters union.
This attempt has been made over a ten-year process which seemed an unachievable feat primarily due to an unfair election rule that required a super majority in order for the election win to be recognized. Simply put, fifty percent plus one of all eligible voters must vote for the Teamsters.
This rule is unfair because, despite the importance of high voter turnout, the reality is that it is impossible to obtain 100 percent. Therefore, under the super majority rule, all those members who did not vote were counted as no votes. After two elections, the Employee Management Relations Board ruled that super majority was unfair and awarded the opportunity of simple majority which required 50 percent plus one of eligible voters that actually voted.
At first I did not know exactly what to expect or who I would work with, but understood that I would be working with fellow Teamster brothers and sisters so I was eager to get to work.
Even though we were there to organize, I developed a deeper understanding of what the Teamster organizers do behind the scenes that most members do not see. They too, come with a story, and a passion for what they do. There is an amount of work that must be complete to become represented and the steps necessary to accomplish before talks of a first contract is even discussed.
I listened to the heartbreaking stories of men and woman who felt defeated and who were already at a disadvantage by operating under a right to work for less state. These stories included a wife and husband who contemplated divorce but would remain together in order to afford medical; and an employee whose rights were violated under her current union contract and informed by her current union that either she deals with it or she can quit or be fired.
Worst of all, finding out that the current union backed out of joint lawsuit that would halt medical increases only to have the remaining party win the lawsuit.
The ability to provide these individuals the gift of hope in knowing that not only can things get better but will get better. That there are people who can stand on the sidewalk for 20-30 minutes who are there to just listen. This entire experience has put into perspective exactly how good we have it in a state that is NOT right to work for less.
We have a strong union, and a strong contract under Teamsters Local 117. It is absurd to assume or expect every battle to be won but it is not absurd to believe that we should have the support behind us to give it one heck of a fight.
I received a call on December 5, 2015 to inform me that our efforts in Las Vegas were not in vain. Teamsters were voted in while the current union was voted out by an impressive landslide. Most important, I am elated to know that the Las Vegas Clark County Support Staff have taken the first step in showing their strength and courage to have their voices heard in public without fear of retaliation.
Las Vegas Clark County school District congratulations on a war finally won. It can only go uphill from this point.
This piece was submitted by Joschue Reyes, a Local 117 member who works at the Clallam Bay Corrections Center.