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.”
Congratulations and welcome to a group of clerical staff at Americold who have voted overwhelmingly to become Teamsters.
The group came together earlier this year to win retirement security, a voice on the job, and respect. Their NLRB union election took place today at the company's cold storage facility in Fife.
"I want to have someone to fall back on and defend my rights in the workplace."
"I support forming a union with the Teamsters because I want to have someone to fall back on and defend my rights in the workplace," said Allison Knight, who works in inventory control.
The clerical group joins a hundred of their Teamster Sisters and Brothers who work in the warehouse at the Fife facility.
"Congratulations to our newest members. We're excited to welcome them to our union," said John Scearcy, Secretary-Treasurer of Teamsters 117. "As members of Teamsters 117, we can all gain inspiration from the strength and determination these workers showed to stand together and win a voice on the job."
Teamsters of Humane Society bargaining team recognized at Teamsters membership meeting .
An estimated 10 million dogs are lost every year. When brought into shelters, they frequently exhibit aggressive and defensive behaviors. It is up to shelter employees like kennel aide Alexander Yeatman to care for them and put them at ease. At the Humane Society for Tacoma and Pierce County, Yeatman does the dangerous and dirty labor of cleaning the kennels, yet he wouldn’t trade his job for any other.
When the animals come in, apprehensive and sometimes injured, it is his passion to help them get their confidence back, gain healthy weight, and show their true characters. Yet the management can too easily dismiss Alex’s voice and assessment in observing the animals. “Pets score on a behavioral test a certain way when they come in, but they behave very differently once they get accustomed to the kennel. I need my voice to be heard so that I can advocate for the animals I care for,” he said.
"Now we are able to speak up for the animals and get the equipment we need to provide adequate care. We are not afraid of retaliation anymore."
Last year, Alex decided to change that. He played an essential role in organizing the kennel aides, and now he is a shop steward and a Teamster. “It used to be like walking on eggshells, so by unionizing I wanted us to be recognized as a vital part of the organization. We’re not just poop picker-uppers. I wanted to show the employer that this position should be valued,” stated Alex.
Our union bargaining team meets at the Tukwila hall during contract negotiations with Sysco.
Great news for Teamsters in the food service industry! This weekend our members at Sysco voted overwhelmingly to ratify a new 3-year contract. The agreement provides annual wage increases, retirement security, and affordable health care for over 200 Local 117 members and their families.
“Our negotiations committee worked incredibly hard to achieve this agreement,” said John Scearcy, Secretary-Treasurer of Teamsters 117 and the lead negotiator for the union. “Together with last year’s contract at US Foods, this agreement sets the standard for food service contracts across the country.”
Getting to a deal was far from easy. Sysco is a massive multinational food service conglomerate, the largest broadline food distributor in the world. The company has made life difficult for Teamsters in other parts of the country.
Earlier this year, Local 117 members showed solidarity with Teamsters in Oklahoma where the company fired several shop stewards. In Missouri, Sysco employees established an unfair labor practice picket line at the end of 2017 to protest alleged violations of federal labor law.
Here in the Northwest, the group’s unity and resolve helped beat back proposed concessions at the bargaining table. The group sent a powerful message to the company when they voted unanimously to authorize a strike several weeks ago.
“We went into these negotiations with clear goals and expectations,” said Rowan Griffin, a shop steward on our union bargaining team. “John Scearcy’s skills as a negotiator are undeniable. We are lucky to have such strong leadership in our union.”
"We were successful because we have strong leadership and solid member participation."
Will Buff, a rank-and-file veteran of several Sysco negotiations, reiterated that point. “We were successful because we have strong leadership and solid member participation. There was trust between our negotiations team and our union’s leadership like never before.”
“Our members take pride in their work and know their value,” Scearcy said. “They stuck together and fought to win a contract that reflects the important service they provide to families who rely on meals at hospitals, schools, daycare centers, and nursing homes across our region.”
Union officials, representatives, and members from around the West gathered to learn more about the power of the Teamsters pension plan.
It’s one of the most secure, well-funded defined benefit pension plans in the country. The Western Conference of Teamsters Pension Plan, commonly known as the Teamsters pension, provides retirement security to over 200,000 active participants in 13 Western states.
Last week, representatives of the pension, including plan trustees, provided a day-long training for Local Union officers, representatives, and rank-and-file leaders from across the West. The goal was to familiarize the group with resources, better assist members, and succeed in negotiations.
The agenda delved into the history of the plan, an overview of the plan’s website, field support, effective bargaining techniques, and the advantages of the plan as compared to a 401(k).
Matt Collins, a shop steward at Fred Meyer, was one of the Local 117 members in attendance. “I was able to get critical information about the pension that will help me better serve my fellow Teamster brothers and sisters,” he said.
"I was able to get critical information about the pension that I can take back to the shop floor..."
Another member who joined in was Anthony McKinney, a shop steward at SuperValu. McKinney, together with fellow bargaining committee members, just finished negotiating pension increases in their contract.
“It’s important to get information out to the younger generation,” he said. “There is an information gap with people who only see the now-factor of life and may not be thinking about the future of their families. I will bring this back to my facility and become an advocate to make sure that all of us fully understand how important it is to keep the pension rates going up from contract to contract.”
James Borsum, who joined our Local's rep staff last year, said he was grateful for the training as well: “I get a lot of questions on the shop floor about how our pension compares with other pension plans. Fortunately, I can report back to our members that our pension is in great shape and what we need to do to keep it strong for the future.”
The Western Conference of Teamsters Pension Plan is managed by a Board of Trustees and administered by Northwest Administrators. If you want information about your estimated benefit under the plan, you can set up a personal pension appointment by calling Diana McDowell at 206-441-7470. To set up a pension meeting for you and your co-workers, talk to your union representative.
Van's co-workers at Swire Coca Cola show their support.
Inside the Coke warehouse, everyone knows Van Huynh. Van is an outstanding shop steward who does not tolerate any injustice towards his co-workers.
But Van is more than that. He is a survivor of Viet Cong atrocities. When his family immigrated to the U.S., he dealt with debilitating disease, the loss of his sister, and poverty. Working hard despite all odds, Van provided for his family, including a handicapped parent, and today his kids are on the way to college. Van is the stuff American dreams are made of.
Evidently this means nothing to Van’s employer. Earlier this month, Swire Coca-Cola, forced him to accept what they are deceptively calling a “voluntary resignation.” Instead of granting him a leave of absence as Van had requested, the company took advantage of long immigration backlogs to terminate him.
A representative of the Department of Justice (DOJ) contacted Coke management to inform them that the termination was unnecessary. Nevertheless, Coke ignored the advice of the DOJ and moved ahead with the “voluntary resignation.”
Early this morning, Van’s co-workers at Swire Coca-Cola wore solidarity stickers and signed a petition in support of the eight-year Local 117 member.
In the petition, members are demanding that Coke grant Van an immediate leave of absence so that he can return to work as soon as his paperwork is processed. The petition goes on to say:
Van has been a Shop Steward for two years and has worked aggressively to enforce our contract at Coke and protect members’ rights under the contract. He is also a graduate of our Teamster Leadership Academy and authored a powerful story about how the union has positively impacted his life.
“Van is an inspiration to members across our union,” said John Scearcy, Secretary-Treasurer of Teamsters Local 117. “We will fight to protect his rights under the contract and under the law and will hold Coke accountable for retaliation of any kind for Van's involvement in the union.”
Teamsters Local 117 is demanding justice for dairy workers who are facing harassment, retaliation, and other abuses on the farms that supply Darigold milk. Local 117 Secretary-Treasurer, John Scearcy, will join farm workers and elected, community, faith, and labor leaders to speak out in support of the workers, who will begin a 5-day reconciliation fast starting on Thursday.
Earlier this week, the Seattle City Council unanimously passed a resolution in support of the Darigold Dozen and called on Darigold to take immediate steps to improve working conditions at Darigold-member dairies.
“We applaud the City Council for taking action in support of dairy workers,” Scearcy said. “Workers have the right to a safe workplace free from harassment and discrimination no matter if they work on the farms, in the stores, or in the plants that process Darigold milk.”
Teamsters Local 117 represents 250 production workers at Darigold’s processing plants in Seattle and Issaquah. Workers at the Issaquah plant make butter, sour cream, and cottage cheese, while workers in Seattle process hundreds of thousands of gallons of milk every year, supplying Costco, Walmart, and other grocery stores throughout the Pacific Northwest.