Port of Seattle bus driver Tambra Fontes shows off her union solidarity band.
You’ll see them on the wrists of bus drivers circling around Sea-Tac Airport – white bands bearing a message of unity and strength. The bands read: We decide how strong our union will be. When drivers pass each other on their routes, they raise their fists as a show of union pride.
Local 117 member Tambra Fontes got the idea for the wristbands, together with shop steward Monica Petty. “We were trying to unify all of us drivers and get us to become one,” Tambra said.
Tambra hails from a strong union family. Her father worked for the postal service, where he was a shop steward for his union. Her husband, Josh Hoopes, is a Local 117 member at Animal Supply. “Getting this job was everything for me,” she said. “Being Teamsters is exactly what my dad wanted for me. It felt like our future was set – you couldn’t ask for anything more.”
"It felt like our future was set – you couldn’t ask for anything more."
Tambra and Monica have been teaming up to alert their co-workers about the potential impact of the Janus court case. They’ve talked about the importance of sticking with the union.
Their call for solidarity has been effective as nearly all Port of Seattle bus drivers have signed cards committing to the union. “When we stand together, our freedom, power and unity cannot be taken from us,” Monica says.
Getting people signed up on commitment cards was essential, but the two women also wanted a symbol that matched the message. “Being a driver, it’s kind of hard for all of us to connect,” Tambra said. “The wristbands are something that we can wear to let everybody know we’re all one.”
With contract negotiations coming up next year sustaining that unity will be key. The drivers have already shown that no court case or external group can weaken their voice on the job. Tambra and Monica have decided that they want to keep their union strong. And because of members like them, it is.
Sysco Teamsters in front of our union hall in Tukwila after the strike authorization vote.
There was not a single no vote in the house. All Teamster drivers and warehouse workers who packed the union hall for the Sysco meeting on Saturday cast their vote to authorize a strike.
The unanimous strike vote sends a clear message to the company that the group is not backing down in their fight for fairness.
The company came into negotiations with a substandard proposal across the board and have taken some actions that we are investigating as potential violations of federal labor law.
“Teamsters at Sysco in Seattle are prepared to strike for fair treatment and to protect their livelihoods,” said John Scearcy, Secretary-Treasurer of Teamsters 117 and the lead negotiator for the union. “Our members work incredibly hard to supply safe food service products to schools, restaurants, and hospitals across our region. The company needs to recognize them for their labor.”
Negotiations between Sysco and our union got underway in July, with the contract set to expire on September 1. No extension agreement has been signed.
In other parts of the country, Sysco has been trampling on the rights of workers. In recent months, Local 117 members have participated in Days of Action to show solidarity with Teamsters in Oklahoma where the company has fired multiple shop stewards and tried to break the union. Late last year, Sysco Teamsters in Missouri established an unfair labor practice picket line to protest alleged violations of federal labor law.
We are hopeful that when Sysco returns to the negotiations table, they will bargain in good faith. We will keep you updated as soon as we have more information.
Our union team gathers on the first day of contract negotiations with SuperValu.
Over the weekend, Teamsters who work in SuperValu’s grocery warehouse in Tacoma voted overwhelmingly to ratify a new three-year contract. The contract provides annual wage increases, excellent health and welfare coverage, and retirement security for over 200 members of Local 117 and their families.
“One of the highlights for me was ensuring full maintenance of our medical benefits,” said Anthony McKinney, a shop steward who served on our union’s negotiations committee. “A lot of my co-workers are on their way to having children. They’ll see the incredible benefit of keeping this medical coverage in our contract.”
"They’ll see the incredible benefit of keeping this medical coverage..."
The agreement maintains industry standards and aligns with other Teamster grocery contracts, including those at Safeway and Fred Meyer. This is a major accomplishment given the dramatic changes and consolidation in the industry.
A little over a year ago, SuperValu purchased Unified Grocers for $390 million. Teamsters who had worked in Unified’s Seattle warehouse moved down to the SuperValu facility in Tacoma.
Matt Komperda has been a union member his entire adult life and a shop steward on and off for eleven years. Now he’s using that wealth of experience to work as a Union Representative for Teamsters 117.
Matt has been immersed in rep work at the Local since early June to help with coverage in the grocery industry. As a permanent staff member, he’ll be representing members in a broad jurisdiction of private sector shops in King and Pierce counties.
Matt got an early introduction to union jobs. In High School, he worked at a Safeway store in Gig Harbor, where he joined the United Food and Commercial Workers. Just four days after graduation, he got hired on at company’s distribution center in Auburn. That’s when he launched his career as a Teamster.
“I thought it was just going to be a summer job,” he said. “I ended up staying there for 18 years.”
Matt was recruited as a Shop Steward by former Teamster Rep Tom Gallwas, who recognized Matt’s leadership on the shop floor and his keen knowledge of the Safeway contract.
"I learned attention to detail and the power of having a voice..."
During his tenure as a shop steward, Matt handled grievance meetings, participated on the union’s negotiations team, and attended lobby day events in Olympia. He also was part of a group of member leaders who met to give input on our union’s strategic plan.
“I learned attention to detail, the power of having a voice, and the importance of knowing our Teamsters history,” he said.
Secretary-Treasurer John Scearcy is excited to have Matt onboard. “Matt has been a strong member leader in the grocery industry for many years. It’s a pleasure to welcome him to our staff, and I wish him all the best as he moves into a new stage of his Teamster career.”
Members of the bargaining committee in front of Teamsters Tukwila Hall.
Teamster members of Local 117 will not be disrespected. It was just the second day of bargaining with Sysco when the company proposed eliminating restrictions on the amount of overtime they can force our members to work and restricting access to vacation time during the summer months.
"We are not prepared to make any concessions. Better wages, healthcare and pension are on the agenda."
“Drivers are already driving 12 to 14 hours a day and barely see their families,” said Roland Griffin, Sysco Warehouse worker of 25 years. His co-worker and fellow shop steward Erick Engel added: “These proposals strip even more time away from our families and negatively affect our overall quality of life”
Secretary-Treasurer John Scearcy is leading these negotiations. “Our members have provided us clear direction. They deserve a fair contract, and I am committed to them getting one,” he said.
Sysco is the world's largest broadline food distributor. The hard labor of its workers has grown its profits beyond expectation for three quarters in a row. Despite that, the company is looking to make the working conditions even more difficult for workers.
“Sysco it trying to play hardball with the bargaining team, but we are not prepared to make any concessions. Better wages, healthcare and pension are on the agenda,” concluded Engel.
Last week the Port of Seattle Commission voted to approve an agreement to officially end taxi contractor Eastside for Hire’s “Pay-to-Work” fleet reduction plan, and provide stability for the remainder of Eastside’s contract with the Port.
Union taxi and flat-rate drivers celebrated the victory and vowed to continue to take action through their union to have a voice at work.
Back in April, taxi contractor Eastside for Hire announced the “Pay-to-Work” scheme by giving drivers just 5 days to make a choice – either agree to pay $9,000, or lose your job at the airport.
"What kept me going is the belief in fighting for our rights in this country."
Facing this impossible choice, over 200 drivers joined in a job action protesting the “Pay-to-Work” scheme. Taking action was a risk since some drivers had already been suspended by the company following a protest of exorbitant fees and unsanitary working conditions the previous year.
One of them was Worku Belayneh. “What kept me going is the belief in fighting for our rights in this country,” he said.
Before taking action, drivers made a commitment to each other that they refused to be divided. Instead this religiously and culturally diverse community stood united in their union, and packed Port Commission meetings time and time again to share their stories.
Throughout the campaign, drivers’ solidarity and commitment to each other was put to the test. Following one Port Commission meeting at which drivers testified, Eastside for Hire announced 30 day termination notices for 29 vehicles and their drivers.
"We could never have achieved this without the union."
But, drivers did not back down. They rallied behind “The Sea-Tac 29” and raised their voices louder.
In the end, drivers’ strength and unity raised their plight to the top of the list on a busy Commission agenda even in a time of rapid airport expansion. The Port Commissioners understood that they had to act on this pressing issue.
Under the agreement approved last week,
- Eastside for Hire is prohibited from increasing driver fees for the remainder of their contract with the Port. In fact, driver fees will decrease by $95 per week in June of 2019.
- Eastside for Hire cannot terminate any driver for prior actions they took protesting the “Pay-to-Work” fleet reduction plan.
- The Port retains the sole discretion to determine the number of vehicles in the fleet, and will not reduce the fleet size for the remainder of the Eastside contract except in cases of either 1) voluntary departures, or 2) future terminations “for cause.”
- Eastside for Hire’s contract will end on September 30, 2019.
“We could never have achieved this victory without the union,” concludes Worku Belayneh. “Now I can focus on doing my job and raising my three children.”
Today drivers are looking forward to a better future and plan to maintain their unity to make sure they continue to have a voice at the airport.
Our union team gathers on the first day of contract negotiations with the SuperValu.
Teamsters at Supervalu were having none of it. The company had brought in out-of-town temps to operate forklifts at its distribution center in Tacoma. The temps were being prepped to do Teamster work in a Teamster warehouse. It was a classic case of skimming and, if allowed, would set a dangerous precedent just as our group was heading into contract negotiations.
The shop steward on shift, Anthony McKinney, drew a firm line with management. "I talked to the GM, Steve LaBard, and expressed how I felt about having temps in our facility," he said. LaBard promised to send them home.
But the next day the temps were back again. At the start of his shift, McKinney was pulled into the office by the West Regional VP, who told him the company's plans had changed: The temps would no longer be used to operate forklifts; they would train our members on the forklifts instead.
Forklift training, as McKinney knew, is also Local 117 work. The skimming violation would still be in play as long as the temps remained in the warehouse. Clearly, the company had not gotten the message.
That's when McKinney and another shop steward, Greg Wiest, made the call. If the temps stayed, all 80 Teamsters on swing shift were going to walk. The stewards would give the company until 3:25pm to get the temps off of facility property.
Word spread quickly through the warehouse. The crew gathered outside the office, while McKinney, Wiest, and other rank-and-file leaders went in to deliver the message to management. "We told them how we were being disrespected, how we weren't being listened to, and that we were going to walk," Wiest said.
"I don't think they expected the solidarity that our group showed."
The mangers were flummoxed, the deadline passed, and just like that the group shut down one of the largest grocery distribution centers in the Pacific Northwest.
With their entire workforce on the way out, the company had no choice but to capitulate. They agreed to get the temps off the floor. But the stewards weren't taking any chances. "We wanted to see them walk off the property before going back to work," Wiest said. So management rounded up the temps and walked them out.
After the action, there were a lot of high fives and handshaking. Word spread to graveyard and day shift. The story of the workers' resolve will likely ripple across the grocery industry. It is especially remarkable given that they had just finished navigating the impact of a merger with Unified Grocers that added dozens of Local 117 members to the warehouse a few months ago.
For McKinney and Wiest, the group's unity sends a powerful message to the company that Teamsters will fight to maintain standards in the grocery industry as we head into contract negotiations this month. The company had tried to capitalize on the perceived divisions, but had underestimated us. "I don't think they expected the solidarity that our group showed," McKinney said.
"It's Our Union - And We'll Fight For It!" That's what Teamsters at Sysco are saying.
Today Local 117 members took part in a National Day of Action. The group of drivers and warehouse workers wore solidarity stickers & put signs in their vehicles in support of our Brothers & Sisters at Local 866 in Oklahoma where the company has fired two shop stewards & are trying to break the union.
The show of unity and support of fellow Teamsters across the country comes just a few weeks before contract negotiations with Sysco kick off this summer.
Our members are ready to fight for a contract that respects the critical work they do to house and supply food services products throughout our region.
Teamsters who work at Impark celebrate their new four-year contract.
We all came together as Teamsters. For Awgaw Fanta, a Local 117 parking attendant, who operates two garages in downtown Seattle, that was the highlight of this weekend's contract win.
Fanta is a shop steward who serves on our union's negotiations committee that has been meeting with the employer since April.
This Saturday, Fanta and his co-workers had the opportunity to vote on a fully-recommended settlement offer. The four-year agreement was overwhelmingly ratified by the group.
Members will see wage and pension increases in each year of the contract, maintenance of their health and welfare benefits, and a new shoe allowance for some classifications.
"Everybody is happy to get a raise," Fanta said. "It's an important thing for us. It helps our families."
"Everybody is happy to get a raise... It helps our families."
For Fanta, the group's unity was key to their success. Members stuck together, attended union meetings, and supported their negotiations committee that worked long hours to achieve improvements to the contract.
"Takele and Paul fought really hard for us," Fanta said, referring to the union negotiators assigned to the group.
"Our members at Impark provide essential services to commuters and tourists coming to park in the downtown Seattle core," said John Scearcy, Local 117 Secretary-Treasurer. "They deserve fair pay to support their families, just working conditions and a secure retirement. By sticking together, they have achieved a contract they can be proud of."
Teamster taxi drivers showing their collective power at the Union hall on Friday, May 25.
Teamster taxi and flat-rate drivers celebrated an announcement by airport contractor Eastside For Hire that the company would suspend its Pay-To-Work scheme and rescind the planned terminations of 29 vehicles and their drivers from the airport taxi fleet.
Drivers were prepared to take a strike authorization vote on Friday to protest the threat of terminations and a scheme requiring drivers to pay thousands of dollars or lose access to the airport. After Eastside’s announcement that it was suspending Pay-To-Work, the strike approval meeting turned into a celebration.
“This is a great victory. We stood together in our union to protect our jobs,” said Suldan Mohamed, a driver who has worked in the taxi industry for 13 years. “We are not divided by color, religion, or background. We are all one community trying to support our families.”
“We were able to achieve this through our unity,” added Harinder Singh. “But the threat is not over. We need to stay united and be ready to take action again if necessary.”
"We were able to achieve this through our unity."
On April 17, hundreds of drivers participated in a peaceful protest at Sea-Tac Airport to protest Eastside’s plan to reduce the taxi fleet and impose additional fees on drivers. Drivers spoke out at Port Commission meetings against the unjust terminations and met individually with commissioners.
The Port ultimately directed Eastside to rescind its plan and said it would exercise its right to inspect Eastside’s records related to the terminations. At today’s meeting, drivers wrote cards thanking the Commission for their support. “We want to thank the Port of Seattle for listening to drivers and taking this issue seriously,” Mohamed said. “This is a great day for us and our families.”
“I want to congratulate Teamster taxi drivers on this important victory,” said John Scearcy, Secretary-Treasurer of Teamsters 117. “Drivers showed that by standing together in their union they can protect their livelihoods and prevail in the face of unjust working conditions. Our union is stronger through their membership, unity, and resolve.”