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.”
Congress has finally acknowledged what Teamsters have been saying for years…there is a pension crisis in this country and Congress must resolve it to protect workers and our economy.
While the Western Conference of Teamsters Pension Trust (WCTPT), which provides retirement benefits to many members of Teamsters 117, is on strong financial footing, other pension plans around the country are in need of immediate relief.
That was the message delivered this October by representatives and trustees of the WCTPT at a training for union officers, union staff, and rank-and-file Teamster leaders from across the West.
Thanks to the activism of Teamsters in the room and across the country, Congress has recently set up a Joint Select Committee to work towards a solution to ensure the solvency of multi-employer pension plans.
We urge the Committee and all of our Representatives and Senators in Congress to reject the GROW Act, which would permit draconian cuts to workers’ benefits and subject retirees to devastating cuts to their pensions.
For pension reform that protects workers, our union is supporting the Butch Lewis Act (H.R. 4444/ S. 2147). Butch Lewis provides a path to financial health for troubled pension plans, alleviates pressure on the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation, and ensures that current and future retirees receive all of the benefits that they've earned.
Take Action to Protect Worker Pensions Now! Reach out to your Senators and Representatives in Congress and urge them to support the Butch Lewis Act. The more bi-partisan support the legislation garners, the more likely it is to be adopted by the Committee.
Got Teamsters medical? You can save on your 2019 medical expenses by taking a confidential Health Assessment if you are covered under the Washington Teamsters Welfare Trust.
Both you and your eligible spouse or covered domestic partner must take the Health Assessment between November 1 and December 15, 2018 to qualify for the reduction.
For members covered under plans A, B, C, and Z, your annual deductible in 2019 will be $200 less for individual coverage and up to $600 less for family coverage than if you do not take the assessment.
The assessment is a confidential questionnaire about your lifestyle and health. It's easy to complete and gives you the opportunity to improve and maintain healthy habits.
To take the assessment, visit wateamsters.vivacity.com. If you don't have internet access, call Vivacity at 855-784-4562 to request a paper version.
If you have questions, please talk to your union representative.
Uber and Lyft drivers attending a Driver Summit event today sponsored by the App-Based Drivers Association got a first look at a Rideshare Wage Calculator developed in partnership with Teamsters 117. The new tool, which can be accessed at www.drivercalculator.org, deducts common expenses such as gas, vehicle maintenance, and insurance from a driver’s weekly gross earnings to calculate estimated hourly pay. Drivers can compare their pay to the Seattle minimum wage and other types of jobs.
"The Rideshare Wage Calculator gives you a realistic calculation of your pay."
“The Rideshare Wage Calculator gives you a realistic calculation of your pay,” said Hari Lama, who has driven for Uber and Lyft for two years. “It reflects my experience that our pay has been decreasing over time and that the commission rates these companies are taking are too high. We need to be compensated fairly so we can earn a living wage.”
The methodology used to develop the Calculator is based on the work of Larry Mishel, a distinguished fellow at the Economic Policy Institute, who analyzed driver pay in his report Uber and the Labor Market published earlier this year. "It is important that every 'rideshare driver' accurately assess their earnings and be able to compare them to other workers on an apples-to-apples basis. This wage calculator provides just that tool," Mishel said.
Drivers at the meeting brought their concerns over high commission rates, decreasing pay, deactivation, and a lack of protection for workers to Seattle City Councilmember Teresa Mosqueda, who committed to work with others on the Council to develop new policies to raise standards in the industry.
“We need to establish policies to ensure that drivers in the for-hire transportation industry enjoy the same rights and protections as other workers in our City – the right to free association, the right to stand together in a union, and protections by Seattle’s sick and safe leave and minimum wage laws,” Councilmember Mosqueda said.
In April, the City Council passed a resolution to study data in the for-hire industry and explore equitable compensation for drivers, improve customer service, and ensure equal market access to all stakeholders. “Uber income is going down and our expenses are going up,” said Abebe Ephrem, who has been driving for Uber and Lyft since they entered the Seattle market in 2012. “The drivers have lives, they have apartments, they have families. The City needs policies so that we can be treated with respect, like human beings.”
Uber is near the top of companies in Washington State whose workers rely on food stamps to feed their families. According to a recent study by JP Morgan/Chase, average monthly earnings among active for-hire drivers in the first quarter of 2018 were 53 percent lower than their peak in the first quarter of 2014.
“The public should not be subsidizing billion dollar companies in a race to the bottom in driver pay,” said John Scearcy, Secretary-Treasurer of Teamsters 117. “Seattle needs to follow New York's lead and pass legislation to guarantee that drivers can earn a living wage.”