Heather McMahon is a self-admitted talker, not afraid of speaking her mind. “I’m outspoken,” she unabashedly admits. “I try my best to help people. I’m going to stand up for what’s right.”

McMahon got fired up recently when her employer, MV Transportation, tried to mete out disparate discipline to her and two of her co-workers. When she tried to fight it, her manager told her she was powerless as an “at-will” employee.

Hearing her employer flaunt the fact that she didn’t have a union only spurred Heather on. She contacted Teamsters 117 and rallied her co-workers around winning a voice at work.

With uncertainties around COVID and a number of thorny, unresolved issues in the workplace, most of her co-workers jumped at the idea of joining the Teamsters. For those on the fence, McMahon asked, “Do you like getting regular wage increases? Do you like having someone who always has your back? Do you think your tenure with the company matters?

Pretty quickly, she had them convinced. It also helped to have the backing of our Union’s Organizing Department, Union Representatives, and the hundreds of Local 117 members who already work at the company.

Last week, the group of transit instructors and call center supervisors formalized their desire to join the union by voting overwhelmingly to become members of Teamsters 117 in an election with the National Labor Relations Board.

“We’re ecstatic,” McMahon says. “We can’t wait to get a contract in place so we can have the protections we need.”

For workers like Heather who are on the frontlines of the pandemic, a Teamsters contract is essential. As a transit instructor, she teaches elderly and disabled residents of King County how to navigate the public transit system. Whether by bus, streetcar, light rail, or ferry, she helps them get to their workplaces, medical appointments, and wherever else they may need to go.

“It’s valuable, rewarding work,” says McMahon, who has over 25 years’ experience working with the disabled community. “It opens a whole new world for them.” 

Organizing during “normal” times is difficult enough, but organizing a new group of workers when you have to restrict physical contact and can only communicate over phone, email, or Zoom presents even more obstacles to workers winning their rights.

But that didn’t stop the workers at MV Transportation from joining Teamsters 117.

“Teamsters at MV Transportation provide critical paratransit services to the most vulnerable residents of our community,” said John Scearcy, Secretary-Treasurer of Teamsters 117. “During the pandemic, these members take on the added risk of contagion to maintain an invaluable lifeline for the disabled and elderly. We’re excited to welcome them into our Union and to work with them to ensure that their priorities are reflected in a strong Teamsters contract.”