Seattle City Councilmember Lorena Gonzalez joins Teamsters 117 members at ICS to fight for a safe, healthy workplace.
Seattle City Councilmember Lorena Gonzalez led a delegation of our members yesterday to confront management at Industrial Container Services (ICS) over alleged violations of federal law and proposals to slash health care.
Councilmember Gonzalez delivered a letter to the company calling on ICS to return to the bargaining table and negotiate a fair contract in good faith that includes "a living wage, affordable health care, and retirement security" for the Local 117 members.
"I am the daughter of immigrants - my parents are from Michoacan, Mexico," Councilmember Gonzalez said as she addressed the mostly immigrant workers after the action.
"I grew up as a migrant farmworker in central Washington State. I understand what it's like to work in a dirty environment where we don't have all of the rights we deserve and to worry about our safety and health. I'm here to support you and your ability to fight for a fair contract and to ensure that you have a safe workplace."
"Thank you to Councilmember Gonzalez for standing together with our members at ICS," said John Scearcy, Secretary-Treasurer of Teamsters 117. "The community will not tolerate an employer that compromises the health and safety of its workforce and pushes its employees to the brink of a labor dispute. We will continue to fight for fairness, equity, and safety until our members at ICS are treated with respect."
Teamsters at ICS are sick of company bullying. They're united and ready to take strike action to defend their livelihoods.
The message was loud and clear, scrawled on the dust masks our members at Industrial Container Services (ICS) wore today as they sanitized and refurbished steel barrels for reuse: Don't make me sick, ICS.
The company wants its Teamster employees to take a major hit on their health and welfare coverage with significant increases to their out-of-pocket medical expenses. In negotiations, ICS is trying to impose an inferior medical plan and they are providing little notice about enrollment.
Members are sick of the company's bullying tactics. Before this morning's safety meeting, the workers gathered in the breakroom, put on the masks and attached stickers to their hardhats that read, "Ready to strike!"
Last Friday, the group voted unanimously to authorize a strike and is prepared to disrupt production unless the company changes its approach at the bargaining table.
"ICS needs to do the right thing and return to negotiations prepared to bargain in good faith," said John Scearcy, Secretary-Treasurer of Teamsters 117. "This is difficult, dangerous work where our members are exposed to toxic fumes and the risk of injury is high. The last thing this company should be doing is degrading our members' health care coverage."
UPDATE - FEB. 22, 2019:
On Wednesday, our members at ICS raised Just Practicing pickets in front of the company during their lunch break. Check out a few photos from the action below:
Power, unity and resolve: Teamsters at ICS gather outside our Union Hall after a unanimous strike vote.
Teamsters at Industrial Container Services (ICS) are not backing down. After months of being bullied by their employer in contract negotiations, the group is fighting back. Today after an update from their union committee on the company’s substandard proposals, members voted unanimously to authorize a strike.
With the vote, the group sends an unequivocal message to their employer that they are united and won’t be jerked around. “All of us are united in demanding that they negotiate fairly,” said Abel Flores, a nine-year employee at the company. “We need them to respect our rights, and we need to see improvements in their proposals.”
ICS has refused to engage in meaningful negotiations and made unilateral changes to working conditions, laying the groundwork for a possible ULP strike.
What's more, ICS wants members to take a major step backwards on their health and welfare coverage while at the same time they want to hitch members' wages to the minimum required under the law. They’ve even tried to divert previously agreed to retirement contributions from the existing contract into their new wage proposals.
The group is not having any of it. “It’s not fair that they’re treating us like this, under these conditions,” said Iduviges Castro Sanchez, an eight-year employee. “If they won’t come to a fair agreement with our Union, we’re ready to strike.”
"If they won’t come to a fair agreement with our Union, we’re ready to strike."
Teamsters at ICS are no stranger to a fight. In 2014, they showed tremendous courage in standing up to their employer to get organized.
Before joining Teamsters 117, the workers’ only water source was a rusty pipe. Their break room was a filthy wreck of battered lockers, and they had no sanitary place to wash their hands. These abhorrent conditions were worsened by a workplace rife with toxic chemicals workers are exposed to as they sanitize and refurbish barrels containing industrial waste.
With a Union, workers had a voice over their wages and working conditions. Joining Teamsters also led to extraordinary changes including a new break room, new lockers, and a new, clean water dispensary. Now the company is provoking the workers once again, and like before, the workers are prepared to stand up and fight.
Sisters and Brothers -
We owe a whole lot of gratitude to Teamsters across our Union who have been working round-the-clock during Snowmaggedon 2019 to keep our streets clear, our grocery shelves stocked, and our communities safe.
A special thanks to Local 117 members in public works departments across the North and South Sound who have been operating plows and salting the streets for the last week. Road conditions are bad enough now, but can you imagine the mess we'd be in without their tireless service?
Thanks, also, to our members in the grocery and food service industries who are putting in 16-hour shifts and holding up in roadside hotels to heft, house, and distribute food products to stores, nursing homes and hospitals across our region. They're busting their tails so that we can continue to eat.
"As Teamsters we've heeded the call of service and sacrifice..."
Teamster police and corrections employees are not granted days off during snow emergencies. Thanks to our Sisters and Brothers in public safety who are braving the roads and, as always, putting their lives on the line, to serve and protect us.
So many more Local 117 members have shown up for work this week despite the snow. As Teamsters, we've heeded the call of service and sacrifice so that families across Washington State can continue to safely navigate their neighborhoods, put food on their tables, and enjoy the madness Mother Nature has gifted us.
You are our hometown heroes - we appreciate you all so much.
Secretary-Treasurer John Scearcy (l), Organizing Co-Director Pedro Olguin (c), and Tyson Lapilio (r) at the Memphis MLK March
Tyson Lapilio, a Teamster at Republic Services, joined Local 117 Secretary-Treasurer John Scearcy and Organizing Co-Director Pedro Olguin in Memphis for the Teamsters Solid Waste & Recycling Division conference earlier this month. Lapilio penned this excellent piece capturing his experiences at the event:
Superheroes have captivated Halem since childhood.
Halem Hasan is a Teamster who works the night shift at Safeway Beverage Plant in Bellevue. A machine operator, he oversees the production of beverages that are shipped to stores across the country. He does that work by night, but at daybreak his steel-toed boots, the chemical resistant smock, mask, and goggles come off, and he puts on his cape. Now, Halem is on a mission. He walks the sunlit streets unnoticed, but the object of his search is always the same: toys.
Halem buys toys in bulk. He walks out of the stores with bags full of superheroes in boxes, complete with little shields, masks, stars, and above all, a dream at heart. When he gets home, he is cautious. His sidekick, his soon-to-be three-year-old daughter Addison -- an aspiring batgirl, mustn’t find out.
Halem with his family. He has been collecting comic book characters for years.
Every month of the year, Halem buys and puts away toys. In December, he gathers them all into one giant box and donates them to Toys for Tots. Before Safeway, he worked at Toys R Us and took part in the toy drive. That’s when he developed a collector’s taste. Today, Halem remains a toy collector and a devout comic book fan.
"Now, it’s my time to give back to the community this way."
Like every superhero, Halem has a backstory. He was raised by a single mother who struggled but provided the family with the best she could. Toys weren’t high on the priority list. Halem remembers waiting for that special time of the year when he would get gifts through toy donation programs. “We had programs like that for Christmas,” he recollects. “Now, it’s my time to give back to the community this way.” He hopes his daughter will join him on his mission someday.
Here is just a small sample of his collection.
It was an incredible show of solidarity and strength this week among Teamsters who work at Transdev.
These paratransit drivers are on the road at all hours, day and night, to ensure that elderly and disabled residents of King County arrive safely to their medical and other appointments.
The County wants to contract their work out to a non-union employer. Our members are demanding respect and that the terms and conditions of their current contract be honored.
Please support them by visiting our Facebook page under the hashtag #TeamstersTransitPower where you can post your words of encouragement.
Seattle-area drivers employed by Chariot, a micro-transit service owned by Ford Smart Mobility LLC, have chosen to join Teamsters Local 117. The workers authorized the union as their exclusive bargaining representative through a card check process conducted by an independent arbitrator last week.
The group of eighteen drivers joined together to ensure that they have a voice over issues like their wages, benefits, and working conditions. “Having a union will allow us to work with our employer to create greater protections and a better working environment for all of us,” said Mark Creighton, a driver with the company.
"Having a union will allow us to work with our employer to create greater protections... for all of us."
Throughout the organizing process, Chariot remained neutral and allowed workers to determine for themselves whether they wanted union representation.
“Chariot provides an excellent example of how a company should conduct itself during an organizing drive,” said John Scearcy, Secretary-Treasurer of Teamsters 117. “While some employers fire workers or aggressively spread anti-union propaganda, Chariot trusted its workers to decide for themselves whether they wanted to join the union.”
The certification of Teamsters 117 as the workers’ exclusive representative triggers the process for contract negotiations. In the coming weeks, drivers will meet to establish their priorities for negotiations and identify rank-and-file leaders to participate on the union bargaining committee.
“We are thrilled to welcome Chariot drivers to our union,” said Scearcy. “Drivers at Chariot deserve a contract that protects their rights and reflects their priorities in the workplace. We are committed to working with them to achieve that goal.”
Teamsters Marcel Zanze, Local 117 Rep Takele Gobena, and Floro Carig celebrating their victory at Hertz.
When Marcel Zanze, a trained geologist, first came to the US, he put his education on hold and rolled up his sleeves to work for Hertz at the airport rental car facility. His family needed him to provide a steady income, and he has done so for 15 years cleaning and maintaining rental cars.
“I never thought I would last here for even 5 months, but now I want my daughter to look up to me for being a hard worker who persevered through tough times,” he said.
Though the job was providing a sustained living, every penny mattered.
In November 2013, Seatac became the first city to pass a $15 minimum wage ordinance that Teamsters wore out shoes knocking on doors to pass. Since then, Marcel’s wages have been slowly catching up with the new minimum wage.
In January of this year, the union-negotiated a 20 cent per hour increase which was set to kick in, but when Marcel looked at his paycheck, he saw none of that.
With Hertz withholding his wage increase, Marcel’s team spoke out with the help of their union rep, Takele Gobena.
At first, the Company tried to deny the validity of their request, but they were forced to reach out to their contract negotiator who had already retired in another state. The negotiator, however, only confirmed Marcel’s claim.
This week, Hertz is paying back upwards of $34,000 in retroactive pay to its workers. Wage increases will also take place in 2019 and 2020.
“The only time I skipped work was during the snowstorm of ’08,” said George Gapasin, Marcel’s co-worker of 15 years. “I work hard and put money aside to visit my family in Japan. This payout will put me one step closer to this goal.”
With the rise in housing prices and the cost of living, this is not the end of the fight for Marcel.
The Teamsters contract at Hertz expires in 2020, and he will be at the table negotiating to further improve his wages and working conditions.
Teamster funeral directors with union rep John Howell, Jr. (l) gather together at Mt. View Cemetery in Lakewood.
Cemetery and funeral work is not for the faint of heart. It takes someone with incredible compassion and the ability to routinely perform end-of-life rituals that most of us would prefer not to think about.
Teamsters who work at Mt. View Cemetery in Lakewood provide comfort to families at the most vulnerable point in their lives. They preside over cremations, embalm and prepare the deceased for viewing, and ready the gravesite for burial.
Christine Walker, a Teamster of three years, operates the cremation furnace at Mt. View. The most wrenching part of her job, she says, is when families request to witness the cremation of their loved ones. “Being here with the family is always hardest, especially when there are children involved.”
Christine Walker, a three-year Teamster, operates the cremation furnace at Mt. View.
The work has immeasurable value and requires considerable training and skill, yet their employer has been slow to recognize its significance.
For nearly a year, Local 117 members at Mt. View fought for fair pay, affordable health care, and protections that are standard in other union agreements. Just last week the group of funeral directors and cemetery workers had something to celebrate: The unanimous ratification of their new contracts.
Through the long contract fight, members showed fortitude and determination. They voted to authorize a strike in October and struck down a substandard contract offer during mediation. Both votes were unanimous.
“The unity the group showed was key,” said Local 117 Vice President and lead negotiator Marcus Williams. “It provided our negotiations team with real leverage at the bargaining table.”
"How much care goes into this place sometimes gets overlooked." - Jeremiah Sandstrom, Local 117 cemetery worker.
Eventually, NorthStar, the massive funeral services conglomerate that owns Mt. View, got the message. Members won higher wage increases than they’d seen in years and fought back takeaways to their health care coverage. They also achieved full retro pay to the contract expiration date, something they had not accomplished in the past.
“Our members at Mt. View comfort families during a time of incredible stress and uncertainty,” said John Scearcy, Secretary-Treasurer of Teamsters 117. “This contract goes a step further toward recognizing the invaluable services they provide our community.”