Union solidarity was in full force down at Auto Warehousing yesterday. Dozens of members getting off their shift lined up for hot dogs as union reps from the Local manned the grill. People wore buttons that read, “This is what a Teamster looks like.”
“This is real positive,” said Hassan Ward, a 20-year Teamster and shop steward at the facility. “When we come together like this, everybody feels empowered. It’s beautiful.”
"When we come together like this, everybody feels empowered."
The group is in the middle of a tough contract fight with their employer. Members want contract proposals from the company that respect their work and their families. So far the employer has not come prepared to bargain and their proposals have been substandard.
The new issue of Teamster Talk, our newsletter for members of Local 117, is now available! In this issue, you'll find stories on:
- our contract wins at UNFI and Republic;
- Teamster efforts to hammer out homelessness;
- an ongoing contract fight at Auto Warehousing;
- and more!
You can get your Teamster Talk online here. For print copies talk to your union representative.
It was a celebratory moment. Rank-and-file member leaders on the Safeway bargaining committee lined up at the front of our union hall while their co-workers greeted and thanked them for a job well done.
The committee had helped produce an outstanding new contract, which was overwhelmingly ratified yesterday by the membership.
“This is one of the best contracts we’ve had in a long time,” said Billy Barnett, a Teamster shop steward, who has worked at the company for 38 years. “I’m feeling really good about it. There are good raises, good pension, and the medical is real huge.”
"This is one of the best contracts we’ve had in a long time."
The Safeway agreement provides wage increases of more than two dollars an hour over four years and pension increases of a dollar an hour. Our committee successfully achieved improvements to sick and bereavement leave, and break-in rates for new hires have been cut in half.
Perhaps the biggest accomplishment in the contract is that it maintains the outstanding health and welfare benefits for members and their families.
Our union’s vice-president, Marcus Williams, took the lead in negotiations, with the support of union representative, Ryan Jarman, and Local 117 Secretary-Treasurer, John Scearcy.
“This contract is testament to all of the Teamsters in the grocery industry,” said Secretary-Treasurer Scearcy. "Our members perform backbreaking work in difficult conditions. They work hard to ensure that our economy remains strong and that food products arrive safely and securely to the dining tables of families across our region. I want to thank and congratulate our bargaining committee for their excellent work.”
Check out photos from the Safeway contract vote here.
Safeway Shop Stewards in bargaining: Jose Madrigal and Bryan Vangstad.
Last night at the Tukwila Hall we reach a fully-recommended offer for over 300 members working under the Safeway Grocery agreement.
“The bargaining committee was focused and determined to achieve the top priorities of the membership. This offer meets those demands,” mentions John Scearcy, Secretary-Treasurer of Local 117.
"The bargaining committee was focused and determined to achieve the top priorities of the membership. This offer meets those demands."
Going into the bargaining, members' concerns included improving their pensions, protecting their family’s health and welfare benefits, and many were hoping to extend the leave of absence such as funeral leaves.
“We were looking for more ethical treatment. A employee’s job cannot be jeopardized if he or she is there for their family during a troubling time like that,” says Jose Madrigal, the youngest Shop Steward in the crew. His first bargaining resulted in a big win for him and his coworkers as he is expecting to welcome a third child into his family.
Marcus Williams, the union representative coordinator who took the lead on this challenging negotiation mentions:
“This contract would not have been achievable without the strong membership participation and our collective efforts with Local 174. Teamster Strong!”
Teamster contract wins are even more crucial for workers in the tough reality of our changing economy.
Oxford Internet Institute has published “Towards a Fairer Gig Economy”, a collection of articles examining the social and economic problems associated with the “gig” economy. Entries are penned by academics, researchers and include an article written by our Local 117 Association Policy Coordinator, Dawn Gearhart.
"Unions cannot collectively bargain with an algorithm, they can’t appeal to a platform, and they can’t negotiate with an equation."
In “Giving Uber Drivers a Voice in the Gig Economy”, she examines the impact of automatized app platforms on drivers in a system designed to disempower workers. Technology that was welcomed for new opportunities brought with it stagnant problems: falling wages, long hours and poor working conditions. Organizing app-based drivers presents a new challenge for the unions, and yet Teamsters have led this fight.
“Unions cannot collectively bargain with an algorithm, they can’t appeal to a platform, and they can’t negotiate with an equation.”
Gearhart highlights successful efforts of the drivers to reverse adverse effects of the new technology by creating the ABDA association, mobilizing against cuts in pay rates and working to successfully pass legislation in Seattle that empowers drivers.
You can read more here.
Brothers and Sisters -
At UNFI, we achieved a defined benefit pension protection for the first time, while at Republic the majority of members will see an incredible 25% wage increase over four years.
These two contract wins are especially noteworthy given our turbulent history with the companies. At UNFI, members went on strike in 2012 in an effort to raise standards to match other contracts in the grocery industry. At Republic, recycle and yard waste drivers have struggled for decades without success to achieve equitable wages and working conditions with the garbage haulers.
In both cases, it appeared that we were headed for a labor dispute if we wanted to achieve our goals. So what made the difference? What allowed us to translate two challenging contract campaigns into historic wins? The answer is members getting involved in their union.
Three UNFI Shop Stewards, Hamilton Lancaster, Dottie Dunthorn and Catalino Brown, helped achieve this historic contract.
On Saturday, Teamsters who work at UNFI voted overwhelmingly in favor of a new contract. It includes a key provision never before present in their collective bargaining agreement – a pension.
Hamilton Lancaster, a Shop Steward at UNFI who fought for this historic contract, mentions that they “are the first UNFI facility in the country to get a pension. It is something that the company has sworn up and down they will never ever give us.”
"I’ve been there for 12 years and the company said — you’ll never get a pension."
Five years ago, workers at UNFI stood together courageously in a nine-week strike to demand better wages and benefits. This time around, Teamsters presented a unified front to fight for financial security after their retirement.
Pension, however, is not the only improvement this contract achieves. It also includes caps on mandatory overtime that will improve quality of life for members. “It’s huge because we won’t be as burnt out,” says Catalino Brown. “We’ll get our days off and will be well-rested to come in and be motivated to work.”
Voting took place in two separate locations, at the Teamsters Hall in Tukwila and in Spokane. Both groups welcomed the new contract. As Lancaster sums it up, “We got some bargaining unit work protections in there, better vacation language, and everybody got a raise and a retro out of it. I think that made it a pretty good deal for a lot of people.”
Local 117 Vice President Marcus Williams, the lead negotiator for the union, praised the work of the bargaining committee.
"They did a fantastic job throughout the negotiations," he said. "The entire membership at UNFI stood strong for retirement security and other improvements. It shows what we are able to achieve when we stand together."
This victory was one of the two contracts ratified this weekend. Republic Services drivers won a long standing fight for a contract granting them parity in wages and working conditions with the garbage drivers. John Scearcy, Teamsters Local 117 Secretary-Treasurer, highlights the importance of these wins.
"Our union's trend of achieving historic contracts shows that our new approach of building contract campaigns is strong. Our focus on engaging and activating the true power-base of our union, the members, is working."
Caps on mandatory overtime for better work - life balance.
Teamster recycle and yard waste drivers who work at Republic Services achieved an historic victory yesterday.
With the terms of their new contract, the group accomplished a goal that they had pursued for more than three decades: Wages and working conditions that are equitable with the garbage drivers.
In every negotiation for the past 30 years, the group has made wage parity a priority. But achieving it has been easier said than done.
The inequity in the industry can be traced back to the 1980s when cities like Seattle first launched their municipal recycling programs. At that time, garbage was the moneymaker for solid waste companies; recycling was not.
That dynamic shifted as cities implemented programs like the “Wasteless in Seattle” initiative, which set ambitious goals for diverting garbage from landfills by recycling and lowering disposal, transportation, and energy costs.
Three generations of Teamsters at Coke: Gene Kettle (l), Dave Campbell (center), Jake Campbell (r).
“As long as those trucks are rolling, stay close to them and you’ll be fine.”
That was the advice Dave Campbell gave his son, Jake, who went to work for Coca-Cola as a merchandiser when he was still in high school. It was the same advice Dave’s father-in-law, Gene Kettle, had given him when Dave launched his own Teamsters career 36 years ago.
In all, the family’s employment at Coke has spanned three generations for a combined 75 years of service.
Gene started as a Teamster at the company back in 1955, but eventually promoted into management and went on to run operations at Coke’s Marysville branch. Dave recalls his father-in-law telling stories of a Coke strike back in the 70s’. “They hired a bunch of Huskies to load trucks,” he said. “One of them knocked over six pallet boards and half buried a route truck in glass. They fired them all.”
Teamsters at Auto Warehousing are gearing up for a fight. In contract negotiations, the company has walked away from the bargaining table on multiple occasions and refused to bargain in good faith.
“The first negotiation session lasted exactly 67 minutes before they decided they were done for the day,” said Randy Chronister, a nine-year Teamster Brother who serves on the union bargaining committee.
The last time the committee met with the company, on Friday June 2, company negotiators abruptly walked out on the union.
“Management has been obstructionist from the start. They do not appear to want to negotiate,” said Brother Chronister.
"We have a lot of upset sisters and brothers who work there."
In response to the company’s failure to bargain, the union committee, led by Local 117 Vice President Marcus Williams, quickly organized a meeting for the following Monday.
At that meeting, nearly a hundred of our Teamster Sisters and Brothers packed the Teamsters hall in Tacoma and overwhelmingly voted to authorize a strike.
“Marcus detailed the issues we’ve been having during negotiations,” Brother Chronister said. “We have a lot of upset sisters and brothers who work there. We don’t feel like management is taking us seriously.”
An overwhelming strike vote sends a powerful message to the company that they need to treat members with respect and bargain a contract in good faith that members can ratify.
“I’ve reached out to FMCS to see if a federal mediator can assist in the process,” Brother Williams said. “We’re hopeful that the company will return to the table with a more conciliatory approach. If that is not the case, members have indicated that they are ready to take action.”
Teamsters who work at Auto Warehousing are responsible for taking new vehicles and adding accessories to them before they get shipped out to the dealerships. The group of 120 Teamsters prepares thousands of vehicles every month.