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.
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.