A big Seahawks playoff game was due to start, but that didn’t stop the crew at Graybar Electric from gathering at their Union hall to prepare for contract negotiations.

Graybar distributes electrical and communications products to businesses across North America.  Teamsters 117 represents members at the company’s facilities in Seattle’s SODO district and in Renton.  Members in the warehouse receive, store, select, pack, and ship company inventory.

All 33 members at Graybar had filled out contract surveys, expressing their priorities for the coming bargaining. “I’ve never had 100% participation with a demands survey, so that was incredible,” said Terren Drake, the Business Representative for the group. 

At the meeting, members discussed a range of topics, including wages, pension, health and welfare, other economic issues, and working conditions.

One of the hot topics was the lack of training, particularly for new employees.  “They’re telling us we’re doing a good job, then it comes to review time and we’re getting slammed” said Guy Gabriel, a Shop Steward at Graybar’s Renton warehouse.  “People are getting laughed at when they ask for training, but that’s exactly what they need.  That is a big issue right now.”

In the end, everyone emphasized the need to stick together. “Our leverage in contract negotiations is our solidarity.  If we stand united, management will know that we’re coming into bargaining in a position of strength,” Drake said.

Bargaining with the company is scheduled to begin on January 15.