As COVID-19 is changing the way we lead our lives, we need more than ever to stand together for safety at work and fair pay.
Teamsters are on the frontlines of this pandemic, and the priorities for our Union have been protecting worker rights, securing appreciation pay, and raising standards across industries.
One way to achieve that for Local 117 members is to expand our ranks and organize more workers to become Teamsters.
Take our organizing survey to share your thoughts on the necessity of building worker power.
Officials at the Port of Seattle have notified airport taxi drivers of a plan to force drivers into debt for unpaid per-trip fees, the collection of which had been suspended during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“It’s unconscionable that, after receiving a $192.1 million taxpayer-funded bailout, the Port of Seattle can’t find a way to help low-wage immigrant workers who are struggling to keep food on the table and a roof over their families’ heads during this crisis,” said John Scearcy, Secretary-Treasurer of Teamsters Local 117. “The fact that they announced their debt pay-back plan as a Friday afternoon news dump on International Workers Day just adds insult to injury.”
"It’s unconscionable that... the Port of Seattle can’t find a way to help low-wage immigrant workers."
Port Executive Director Stephen Metruck had previously announced at a March 24 Port Commission meeting that the Port would "grant a 3 month waiver of fees charged for each trip from the Airport" (see video minute 8:13), to mitigate the impact of the COVID-19 crisis on a low-wage, immigrant workforce that lacks any safety net.
The Port later reversed course and said the fee waiver would only be a deferral, despite the Port being awarded a $192.1 million COVID bailout from the federal government in mid-April.
“After working seven hours yesterday, I came home with only $7 – and now the Port wants me to repay $6 of that back in fees,” said Sasha Nazari who supports his wife and son working as an Airport taxi driver. “I don’t have money to pay the mortgage. I received a shut-off notice on my electricity. Where am I going to get the money?”
Under the new taxi debt plan announced on May 1, if drivers are unable to repay trip fees by January 31, they would accrue interest and risk losing their job at the Airport.
Ryan Murray, head of wide-format digital department, demonstrating a face shield he designed in an incredible two days.
On a Sunday evening, when Ryan Murray, a Teamster at Capitol City Press, saw a message from his co-worker asking if their printing facilities could be used to help medical workers, he couldn’t have imagined that by Tuesday he would have designed and produced with his team 100 innovative emergency face shields.
Capitol City Press is an employee-owned print shop near Olympia, Washington. Like with many other industries in the face of the “stay-at-home” orders, their business dropped sharply. Teamsters and non-represented employees came together and agreed to reduce everyone’s hours to 30hr/week, and to apply for Washington State’s SharedWork Program to try to maintain their wages.
"We'll make it through this."
With the need for protective masks on the rise, their large-format printing equipment used to produce signs out of material other than paper, was repurposed to create face shields designed by Ryan. The tricky part was that medical face shields are usually attached to an elastic headband, but that material wasn’t one that their equipment could work with.
Ryan, who formerly worked as a design engineer, took the challenge head on. “Great design comes from great necessity,” he quoted. “I thought about it all night. My constraints were the time and minimal amount of material, but I’m pretty proud of what we came up with.”
In the end, the face shields were cut out of food-grade clear plastic into one whole piece that secured around the head. The demand of these new shields was almost instantaneous, and in a week and a half, 3000 were made and distributed.
They mostly went to medical facilities and grocery stores, but they were also purchased privately to be donated to nurses. The feedback the team at Capitol City Press received was wonderful, so the design was improved and sent for FDA approval.
The shop is now poised to produce another 3000 shields in a similarly tight timeline, yet the work has ramped up back to 40hr/week.
“We are an employee-owned shop, and as worker-owners we have a stake in the success of this place. With our union contract, we have access to good vacation and sick leave benefits that folks have been using to weather this crisis. So far we have done really well,” said Mike Martens, a shop steward of 14 years throughout which he has worn many hats at the press shop.
As Teamsters at Capitol City are coming together to lift each other and serve their community in a global pandemic, they are hopeful. “We’ll make it through this,” concludes Ryan Murray.
Local 117 Secretary-Treasurer John Scearcy met with members yesterday morning to talk about the rollout of a new safety screening process at Safeway.
With the COVID-19 crisis, Teamsters in the grocery industry are putting in long hours with few days off to keep our store shelves stocked with food and supplies.
Like so many others at Local 117, members at the Fred Meyer distribution center in Puyallup and the Safeway warehouse in Auburn understand the magnitude of the crisis and are doing everything they can to help.
"We have to feed America," said Chris Williams, a Shop Steward and 21-year member at Safeway. "Without food coming and going out of here, a lot of people would be at lost ends. People are trying to stock up, whether it's at a food bank or a local grocery store. If we didn't have our guys to supply them, people wouldn't have the disinfectants, toiletries, and food they need."
Shop Steward Chris Williams is part of the essential workforce that is keeping our grocery shelves stocked.
After some prodding, both Safeway and Kroger have stepped up and are paying members like Chris an additional $2/hr in appreciation pay. We've also recommended that the companies implement a new screening process as a way to keep workers safe.
“Union Representatives Lance Asher and Anthony McKinney, working with our outstanding Shop Stewards in this industry, have risen to the occasion,” said John Scearcy, Secretary-Treasurer of Teamsters 117. “By working together, we have made meaningful recommendations and proposals with a collective focus on the safety and security of our members.”
Both Scearcy and Asher were on hand early yesterday morning to monitor the rollout of screening for our members at Safeway on their way in to work.
Lining up at a popup tent, members were asked a series of questions about their health before entering the facility. Anyone suspected of possible COVID-19 exposure or infection is sent home and put on paid administrative leave.
"I'm glad to see the company putting in place safety measures for our members," Scearcy said. "This is an important way to help prevent infection in a workforce that is essential to keeping food on our grocery store shelves. We're hopeful employers in other essential industries will follow suit."
"We're hopeful employers in other essential industries will follow suit."
Yesterday the screening line at Safeway moved quickly, and members responded favorably to the new program.
"I wish they had started this a little earlier," Williams said. "But now that they're doing it, I feel relieved and appreciative."
Jarrell Lewis, a 20-year Teamster at Safeway, agreed. "I woke up early and was looking forward to it," he said. "People have families at home, and we've got to make sure they are taken care of. Nowadays, everybody's got to have something in the kitchen. I take pride in what we do."
Teamster paratransit drivers at MV provide critical transportation services to our community.
So many Teamsters have risen to the occasion to serve our community during the COVID-19 crisis.
Our members in grocery, corrections, cold storage, law enforcement, solid waste, bakery, dairy, and many other industries are keeping the supply chain moving and making sure vital emergency services stay online.
From early on, Local 117 paratransit drivers who work for MV Transportation have been on the front lines in the fight against the virus through their work shuttling elderly and disabled passengers around our region.
Starting Thursday, 26 drivers began taking on an additional risk. They have volunteered to transport COVID-19-positive patients and those suspected of carrying the disease to and from area medical facilities.
Drivers are not required to interact with the COVID patients. That work is performed by caregivers and medical providers. Still, the danger of infection is real.
“We’re just trying to help people out,” said Helen Vivao, one of the drivers who volunteered for the work. "It's scary at first but after seeing these clients, it's a tear jerker. You don't know if it will be the last time you see them. But we're feeling like it's important that we're doing our part."
Helen and her co-workers are supplementing the first responder network and EMTs who are overrun with emergency transport during this national crisis.
"We’re just trying to help people out."
Up to thirty vehicles will be used for the program. The buses will be retrofitted with safety installations and must pass inspection by public health officials at King County. They will operate exclusively and separately out of MV’s old base in Kent, be sanitized after every run, and they will not be used to transport other MV passengers.
“The work of all of our members at MV is vital to serving our community and protecting the public health. The drivers volunteering for this role are going above and beyond,” said John Scearcy, Secretary-Treasurer of Teamsters Local 117. “We will be closely monitoring safety conditions on these vehicles. It is incumbent on the County and the company to prioritize driver safety and to take every precaution to limit the spread of the disease.”
If you are a Teamster working at the City of Auburn, you will have the opportunity to vote on a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) involving Article 25 (Clothing Allowance) of your collective bargaining agreement. You can review the MOU here:
Voting will take place between March 31 and April 3 using Election Buddy, an electronic voting system. On Tuesday, March 31, we will send you an email to your work email address that will link you to Election Buddy and allow you to vote online.
Please see the video below for more information about the MOU and voting instructions. If you have questions, contact Union Representative Julie Yust at 206-920-5708. Thanks so much!
Because of drivers taking action and aggressive advocacy from your Union, we are one step closer to securing urgently needed emergency relief for Uber, Lyft, and Taxi drivers.
Yesterday afternoon, Governor Inslee announced:
- A statewide 30-day moratorium on residential evictions; and
- An effort to call on the White House and Congress to declare a disaster in Washington, authorizing Disaster Unemployment Assistance for Uber, Lyft, and Taxi drivers and others who may not normally be eligible for unemployment benefits.
We are one step closer to securing emergency relief. But, it’s not guaranteed. We have to fight so drivers don’t fall through the cracks.
Right now, I’m asking you to do three things:
- Call Congress at (202) 224-3121. Tell them “Provide Disaster Unemployment Assistance for Uber, Lyft, and Taxi drivers NOW!”
- Uber & Lyft Drifers: Apply for unemployment. Apply here (computer or laptop). Don’t give up if you receive an initial automated-rejection. Start filing weekly claims (even if you’ve been initially rejected), and be prepared to provide documentation of your hours of work and pay. You want your account to already be set up so there aren’t delays if funds become available. Click here to receive application instructions and information on free legal support.
- Get additional resources. Your Union has compiled this COVID-19 Emergency Resource Guide, including information on where to go for food assistance, what to do if you can’t pay your rent or mortgage, Teamsters job openings, and other resources.
We know this is a very stressful time for drivers. We will continue to fight for the support drivers need, and update you with the latest resources available.
Ubah Dahraan, an Uber driver and single mom of four, says the loss of income she is suffering has been devastating.
The Drivers Union, comprised of Uber and Lyft drivers, and the Western Washington Taxi Cab Operators Association, both affiliates of Teamsters Local 117, are urging elected executives and rideshare companies to take immediate action to provide drivers with emergency relief to mitigate the devastating economic and public health impacts of the COVID-19 crisis.
In an Open Letter sent today to corporate executives and elected leaders in city, county, and state government, the union is calling for up to $1,000 per week in emergency income stabilization for all drivers who have been impacted by the crisis, rent and mortgage assistance, a moratorium on evictions, and the elimination of commissions on all trips.
“I worked 12 hours yesterday and made only $50,” said Aamar Khan, a wheelchair-accessible taxi driver. “If everything gets shut down, I can’t imagine making any more. I don’t know how I’m going to pay my bills next month. We need assistance and certainty so that we can survive. Otherwise, we’re going to end up on the street.”
"We need assistance and certainty so that we can survive. Otherwise, we’re going to end up on the street."
Drivers rely on passenger trips at Seatac Airport, from the technology sector, and at major public events to support themselves. Over the last few days, they say that work has completely dried up. Many Uber, Lyft and taxi drivers are already reporting a more than 80% decrease in their income.
“I’m a single mom with four kids,” said Uber driver Ubah Dahraan. “I can’t stay home because I need the money to support my kids. On the other side, it’s not safe to work at this time. My kids ask me every day, ‘Mommy, if you go outside, you think you can come back safe?’ Also, they ask me, ‘How are we going to survive?’ I don’t know what to tell them.”
Uber, Lyft, and taxi drivers are on the front lines of both the public health and economic impacts of this crisis. Yet unlike most workers, drivers do not have access to paid sick days or employer-provided health insurance.
“Workers across many industries are hurting right now as a result of the COVID-19 crisis that has affected our region,” said John Scearcy, Secretary-Treasurer of Teamsters 117. “But unlike other workers, Uber, Lyft and taxi drivers don’t have access to basic workplace protections to ensure their health, safety, and economic well-being. Drivers are facing a profound economic crisis. They need government and business to step in an provide emergency economic assistance now.”
A group of Maverick employees gather outside the Union Hall in Tukwila after voting on a first-time union contract.
FIRST-TIME CONTRACT FOR MAVERICK TEAMSTERS RATIFIES ON A 98% YES VOTE!
A group of over 1,700 employees of Maverick Gaming LLC has voted overwhelmingly to ratify a first-time union contract with Teamsters Local 117.
The new three-year agreement is the first of its kind for workers in the gaming industry in Washington State. The contract provides workers with a defined-benefit pension through the Western Conference of Teamsters Pension Trust, improved compensation, and greater access to health care, along with a number of other workplace improvements. Voting took place throughout the week at meetings in Pasco, Yakima, Tukwila, Everett, and Tacoma, WA.
“I want to congratulate and welcome Maverick employees to our Union,” said John Scearcy, Secretary-Treasurer of Teamsters Local 117. “These workers took a courageous step to stand together as Teamsters to secure their rights and benefits in the workplace. Together we have achieved a historic agreement that will improve the lives of over 1,700 working people and their families.”
"Together we have achieved a historic agreement..."
Ballots were tallied in Everett on Thursday evening, where workers reacted to the news of the contract ratification with excitement. “I love this contract. It gives my entire family – and when I say family, I mean every employee I work with at Maverick – it gives us all a stable future. It gives us job security, longevity, and a voice. It’s 100% the best thing for all of us,” said Wes Tompkins, a dealer at Coyote Bob’s Casino in Kennewick with over 20 years’ experience in the industry.
“I’m really excited about the contract,” added Jewalea Schnabel, a server and bartender at the Caribbean Casino in Kirkland. “The fact that we are part of the Union is a big step in itself. I’m also excited that we’re getting a pay raise for our cooks and excited about the pension. It will bring lifelong stability for all of us. That’s a really good thing.”