Teamsters at the Spokesman Review unanimously ratify contract, show the power of unity in an open shop
Teamster 117 members who operate the presses at the Spokesman Review.
There are certain fundamentals to a union contract. In a worker-friendly state like Washington, union security is high on the list. Union security insures that all employees in the bargaining unit pay their fair share for representation under the contract.
In right-to-work states, workers lose their freedom to negotiate union security, which can severely weaken the union.
But that doesn't have to be the case. A recent contract win at the Spokesman Review demonstrates that union members can achieve significant contractual gains even without union security, so long as they stick together.
Last month, Teamsters who run the press room at the paper voted unanimously to ratify a contract that contains the largest wage increases in years along with important language improvements.
The group will see protections against subcontracting, stronger seniority rights, better language around discipline, sick leave and hours of work, and a whole host of other improvements. They did it because they rallied together to support their union.
"Everybody that's in our shop was a part of the union," said Ken Coburn, a shop steward with 30 years at the paper. "I think the company was concerned that we might strike. And it could have happened - we could have shut them down."
"The company knew that we had huge involvement in the union."
In years past that wasn't the case. Even leading up to negotiations, several members were behind on their dues. Union rep, Matt House, met with the group and told them that their unity was key to winning a strong contract.
"Matt was awesome," said Jeff Weidert, a pressman with 40 years in the industry. "He's focused - laser-beamed. And he knows when to call B.S." Weidert and Coburn worked together to get their co-workers caught up on their dues, which sent a powerful message to the company.
"The company knew that we had huge involvement in the union," Weidert said. "With the power we had, we were able to take the teeth out of some of their proposals and we were able to negotiate some safeguards. I can't tell you how happy we are."
With open shop likely coming to the public sector next year, the lessons at the Spokesman Review are telling: When workers stand together in their union, they can thrive and win strong contracts, even in a right-to-work environment.
Congratulations to the newest members of Teamsters Local 117! A group of Kennel Aides who work at the Tacoma Humane Society have voted unanimously to join our union.
The group got together last night to celebrate winning a voice at work.
If you are covered by a Teamsters medical plan through the Washington Teamsters Welfare Trust, you can save on your 2018 medical expenses by taking your confidential Health Assessment.
Both you and your eligible spouse or covered domestic partner must take the Health Assessment between November 1 and December 15 to qualify for the reduction.
For members covered under plans A, B, C, and Z and the Kaiser Permanente Options Plan, your annual deductible in 2018 will be $200 less for individual coverage and up to $600 less for family coverage than if you do not take the assessment.
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. Kaiser Permanete Plan Participants go to www.ghc.org or call Kaiser at 866-458-5277 to request a paper version.
If you have questions, talk to your union representative.
Yury Silva (left) counting ratification votes along with fellow Teamsters.
Teamsters at Fred Meyer voted resoundingly in favor of a fully-recommended contract proposal last weekend.
This was not an easy win. With Teamsters securing strong contracts at Safeway and SuperValu earlier this year, Fred Meyer workers authorized a strike in July by a vote of 332-1 and voted down two subsequent proposals.
John Scearcy, our union’s secretary-treasurer, said that the workers’ collective power brought the company back to the negotiating table. “By standing together and demanding a better deal, our members got a proposal that is commensurate with industry standards and will lift up their families.”
“We are the number one distribution center,” said Yury Silva, a shop steward who participated in the tough negotiations. “Our co-workers wanted our contract to put us at number one.” Among the achieved benefits was a reduction in family healthcare cost, protected vacation leave, and solid wage and retirement increases.
This win was a result of workers feeling empowered to not settle for less and be on the same footing with the grocery giant. “I am proud to work for Fred Meyer and I am proud to be a Teamster,” concluded Silva. “Our union is only as strong as the people who work there, and that’s us.”
It’s a new day for Teamsters at Auto Warehousing. After a long contract fight, members voted to ratify what is clearly their best contract in years.
Members will see historically high wage increases in all three years of the agreement, greater retirement security, and an incredible 50% reduction in their monthly premium share on their health insurance.
"We came in aggressive... We’re already seeing positives out of that."
“We came in aggressive, we had points we wanted taken care of, and we argued those points. We’re already seeing positives out of that,” said Randy Chronister, a shop steward, member on the union bargaining committee, and Teamster of over nine years.
It wasn’t easy. The group overwhelmingly authorized a strike, and they voted down two previous proposals. Their militancy, Chronister said, arose because members felt the support of their union like never before and a dramatic increase in union visibility.
“We did BBQs, wore buttons, and posted pictures on the union’s website and Facebook page. Seeing our secretary-treasurer come down here, having our lead negotiator be the vice president of the union – people are feeling very much empowered.”
For a group that hasn’t filed more than a grievance or two in the last several years, these are big changes.
The trick, Chronister insists, is to sustain member involvement for the long run, now that the contract has ratified. “We need to continue doing what we’re doing with the shop stewards working with the union representatives, and making sure people are aware of their rights and empower them. We’re looking forward to that.”
John Scearcy, our union’s secretary-treasurer, says the changes he’s seen at Auto Warehousing have built a powerful foundation for the future. “Teamsters at Auto Warehousing fought incredibly hard to achieve meaningful improvements to their contract. They used their collective voice to demand respect in the workplace. Our goal is to continue to build this momentum so that we can achieve an even stronger contract three years from now.”
A small group of Teamsters who work at Wanke Cascade in Tukwila are all on the same page. The group voted unanimously last month to ratify a new 3-year contract.
"Thanks a billion times on our new contract! The BEST EVER!"
The agreement provides guaranteed wage increases nearly double that of the previous contract, and significant reductions in the amount members will be paying toward their medical.
“Thanks a billion times on our new contract! The BEST EVER!” wrote Shop Steward Craig Williams in an email to his union rep, John Howell, Jr. and lead negotiator, Paul Dascher.
This contract is one of over a dozen that Local 117 members have ratified over the last couple of months.
Our members at Wanke Cascade house flooring supplies, such as hardwood, laminate, and vinyl, for distribution throughout our region.
James Borsum will be representing Local 117 members in the recycle and dairy industries.
James Borsum got an early start as a Teamster, when he went to work at Sysco, in the food service industry, at the ripe old age of 18.
At Sysco, the benefits were better than his previous employer, wages were higher, and best of all, it was a union shop. Borsum bounced around at Sysco, selecting groceries, loading trucks and docking freight. After seven years, he bid into a position as a driver, and ultimately became one of the group’s shop stewards.
Borsum always wanted to be more involved in the union. “As a steward, you can stand up to the employer and say this is wrong, you need to fix it,” he said.
Taxi drivers are being fined $100 for speaking out about the disgusting state of Port bathrooms.
The Port of Seattle has stooped to a new low. The Port has issued $100 citations to taxi drivers who participated in peaceful demonstrations in August over the deplorable state of Port bathrooms for drivers, among other issues.
By protesting publicly, drivers finally compelled the Port to acknowledge the problem and take action to fix it. Previous efforts by the drivers to raise the bathroom issue with Port officials had fallen on deaf ears.
The Port has approved funding for the design and construction of the new bathrooms, but apparently the drivers who exercised their right to speak out on horrendous state of the old bathrooms will be picking up part of the tab.
Drivers have five days to pay the $100 or face suspension and additional citations from the Port. Some drivers have reportedly appealed the citations, only to have their appeals denied.
Taxi drivers pack the Port of Seattle Commission meeting room at Sea-Tac Airport to demand change.
It was not nearly enough. That was the consensus of dozens of Teamster taxi drivers who testified at yesterday’s Port of Seattle Commission meeting about the Port’s plan to lower the per-trip rate drivers are paying.
Drivers have been forking over $7.00 to Eastside For Hire, the company that holds the Airport taxi contract, every time they pick up a passenger at the Airport. That amount was set to increase by $.50 at the beginning of October.
But after months of pressure from drivers and the community to improve conditions at the Airport, the Port stepped in to stop the increase and acted instead to decrease that amount to $6 per trip.
Drivers say it’s too little to make a difference. “Thank you for the reduction, but this does not solve the problem,” said Ali Sugule, who has been driving at the Airport for two years. “We need a voice at the negotiations table. We don’t want this contract going forward because it is hurting us.”
Airport taxi drivers have been calling out Eastside for months for multiple violations of its contract with the Port and point to a rigged system that enriches both Eastside and the Port at their expense.
New Local 117 union rep, Jonathan Makue, has deep roots in Hawaiian culture. His family’s ancestors date back to King Kamehameha, the islands’ founder, and his grandparents grew up speaking the Hawaiian language.
Makue spent his early years traveling back and forth between his grandparent’s place on Oahu and the mainland where his father had built a business in the fishing industry in the Pacific Northwest.
As a young man, he spent five years working in the canneries in Alaska. He started out on the slime line, cutting up salmon and yanking out the guts, promoted to forklift operator, and finally floor manager. “We were in the middle of nowhere,” Makue says. “You could see Russia on a clear day.”
After Alaska, he worked for a short time down on the Ballard docks, before landing his first Teamsters job at the Safeway Beverage plant in Bellevue in 2012.
“It was the best decision I ever made,” he said. “I finally felt like a human being who had rights.” He appreciated the just cause protections at his new job, the negotiated wage increases, and the Teamster benefits.
"I’ve always known that I wanted to be part of something greater than myself."
He quickly got involved with the union. He helped organize a meeting with Kris Fish, the group’s Rep, to talk about getting a shop steward for workers on swing shift. Kris agreed and Makue was voted into that role. In September, Makue joined the staff of Local 117 and will represent Teamsters in the beverage, cold storage, and light construction industries.
He already feels right at home in his new job. “I’ve always known that I wanted to be part of something greater than myself. Once I became a union rep, I knew what that was. The Teamsters have taught me to lead by example, with respect, discipline, and integrity.”