Teamsters like Jeff Schellhase and Keith Wagner (photo) at the King County Public Health warehouse in Seattle are handling huge volumes of PPE inventory.
Jeff Schellhase has never been busier. He's been busting his tail, 11-12 hours a day, on the front lines of the COVID-19 crisis.
At the King County Public Health warehouse where they work, Jeff and his Teamster co-workers house and haul medical supplies to pharmacies, healthcare and long-term care facilities. Since the coronavirus outbreak took hold in our region, the volume has been immense.
"Our work now is more important than ever."
"We're breaking down tons of PPE that has been shipped here and transporting it out as fast as we can," he says. "This includes masks, gloves, gowns - all of the protective gear needed to keep our caregivers safe."
Part of Jeff's job entails picking up COVID-19 lab work and running it over to the state lab for testing. As testing picks up, he'll be called on to do more.
All across the country, Teamsters like Jeff are stepping up to respond to this crisis. As essential personnel, they can't work from home, which puts them at a greater risk of infection.
"Our work now is more important than ever," Jeff says. "People are running out of PPE. They don't have gloves, they don't have masks, and they're having to wrap themselves up in garbage bags. We need to all work together to get them the supplies they need."
This March, we will begin contract negotiations over a new collective bargaining agreement for all Teamsters at King County.
Teamsters 117 will be working as a part of a Coalition - the King County Coalition of Unions - to negotiate over our collective priorities related to the Master Labor Agreement, Total Compensation, and the JLMIC, the joint-labor management group that oversees County employees’ health care benefits.
To help prepare for negotiations, please complete the contract survey by clicking the link below. You must complete the survey by no later than Sunday, March 8, 2020.
Filling out a contract survey is important! The survey helps prioritize issues and gives you an opportunity to voice your concerns. Our Union Negotiations Committee will use the survey results to develop proposals for contract negotiations based on your feedback.
In addition to the contract surveys, we will be holding in-person Contract Demands Meetings with King County Teamsters. The meetings are another way you can make sure your voice is heard. As soon as those meetings are scheduled, we will let you know.
Thank you for sharing your ideas about how we can build a stronger contract together!
At the 20-year anniversary celebration: Brenda Wiest (Vice President), John Scearcy (Secretary-Treasurer), Marie LaRiviere, James Hoffa (General President), Cammy LaRiviere, Michelle Woodrow (President)
Marie LaRiviere always shot for the moon. A Tacoma girl and the daughter of working-class parents, Marie had her sights set on Georgetown University in Washington D.C. She had the grades to get there. The trouble was affording an Ivy League school.
Marie’s mom, Cammy, supported the family through her work as a 911 Communications Officer at Tacoma’s Law Enforcement Support Agency. She spent her days fielding calls from people in distress, a job she loved for the help she could provide the community.
It was a good Teamster job with excellent benefits, but tuition for Georgetown was off the charts. Cammy told her daughter that she could attend any college the family could afford but sending her to Georgetown would be a stretch.
Undeterred, Marie started to cobble together money for tuition. She applied for scholarships wherever she could find them. “She went after them all,” Cammy recalled. Inspired by her daughter’s determination, Cammy encouraged her to apply for a scholarship she found while flipping through Teamster magazine.
Local 117 members Richard Valenti (l), Taylor Pence (c), and Greg Noonan (r) are armed and ready at the City of Auburn.
Greg Noonan, Teamster at the City of Auburn, is your veritable jack-of-all-trades. His work portfolio consists of plumbing, carpentry, welding, and metal fabrication along with some ingenious design work.
When city officials and other town dignitaries needed a sleigh to parade down Main Street, Noonan made it happen. He transformed a flatbed truck into Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer with antlers, blinking lights and all.
"It's hard to say what I do from one day to the next," Noonan admits. "But that keeps things interesting."
Noonan will be retiring this June, passing his craftsman's torch to his co-workers in the City's Public Works Department. As he departs, he'll have the peace-of-mind that the workforce he's labored alongside for 24 years will continue to be protected by a strong Teamsters contract.
Highlights of the new agreement include negotiated wage increases, longevity pay, increases to the uniform allowance, and full maintenance of benefits with excellent health care coverage through the Washington Teamsters Welfare Trust.
"Between no increases to our medical and getting longevity pay - those were the two big things that really got our guys on board."
Rich Valenti, the town's horticulturist and member of our Union's negotiations team, explained why the contract passed with such impressive numbers.
"Between no increases to our medical and getting longevity pay - those were the two big things that really got our guys on board," he said.
Valenti does the town's planting, pruning, and landscape design. He plots out trees, shrubbery, and flowers for hundreds of garden beds across the City. A portion of his time is spent during the winter months propagating annuals in a small greenhouse, where he transform 200 plants into 4,500 by transplanting their cuttings and seeds.
Rich Valenti (l), Taylor Pence (c), and Greg Noonan (r) are armed and ready to keep Auburn at its finest.
Much of the work of Noonan and Valenti, along with the other Teamsters at the City, takes place behind the scenes. They repair our roads, maintain our potable water system, and beautify our public spaces. Their work is indispensable to the smooth operation of the City's infrastructure and Auburn's quality of life.
With the contract approved, members are feeling like their work is finally recognized. "I've never seen a contract ratify with those kinds of numbers," Valenti said. "And we had a great turnout for it, too."
Local 117 Secretary-Treasurer John Scearcy congratulated the group on the new agreement.
“We had record turnout to overwhelmingly ratify a contract that addresses core issues important to our members that have their boots on the ground," Scearcy said. "This is what you achieve by working together as a union and a great example of the power of member engagement, knowledge, and participation."
The anti-union “Freedom” Foundation is making yet another attempt to obtain your personal information through a public disclosure request. The request seeks the following information from the Department of Retirement Services (DRS) for all public employees in the State of Washington:
- First name
- Middle name
- Last name
- Full birthdate
- Work email address
- The retirement system in which they currently participate
- FTE status/percentage
- Current annual salary
- Duty station location/address
To learn about what information DRS is planning to release, you can visit their website here.
In addition to the request submitted to DRS, the “Freedom” Foundation has made a similar request to the Office of Financial Management (OFM) seeking the personal information of all employees who work for the State of Washington.
A DIRECT ATTACK ON PUBLIC EMPLOYEES
Make no mistake – this is a direct attack on all public employees and their unions in Washington State. The “Freedom” Foundation is a radical group funded by out-of-state wealthy special interests. They’ve opposed our right to paid sick days and lobbied against wage increases for state employees. Their goal is to privatize public services, defund defined benefit pension plans, and outsource public sector jobs.
Due to outdated public disclosure laws, the efforts of unions and others to block the release of this kind of information in the past has not been affirmed by the courts. The best way we can fight back is by standing together.
WHAT YOU CAN DO:
- Talk to your co-workers about the “Freedom” Foundation’s anti-union agenda;
- Warn your co-workers about the “Freedom” Foundation’s attempt to access their information.
Thank you for your service to our community and for your membership in Teamsters 117.
Angela Rogness works in King County's domestic violence advocacy program in the Regional Justice Center in Kent.
As we head into the holiday season, we wanted to provide a few updates for Teamsters who work at King County:
- Contract Negotiations: Master Labor Agreement (MLA) negotiations at King County will kick off in the first quarter of 2020 followed by bargaining over your individual appendix agreements. To prepare for bargaining, we'll be surveying the membership and providing lots of opportunities for you to engage in the process. Stay tuned!
- Your Teamsters Contract: With negotiations approaching, now is a good time to review your Teamsters contract. You can access the MLA and your bargaining unit's individual appendix agreement on our Union's website here.
- Wage Increases: All Teamsters at King County will receive a negotiated 3% wage increase in 2020, with 1.5% coming on January 1, 2020 and another 1.5% on July 1.
- Coalition Bonus: All members on payroll January 1, 2020 will receive a $500 coalition bonus. The bonus applies to members of the King County Coalition of Unions only of which Teamsters 117 is a part.
- Teamsters Holiday Meeting: Join us for our Holiday Membership Meeting and raffle drawing extravaganza on Thursday, December 19 at 7 p.m at our Union Hall in Tukwila! This is fun event with lots of prizes and a good way to connect with your Union. You can RSVP for the meeting on our Teamsters website here.
I have one other piece of good news to share. The Consumer Price Index (CPI), which measures changes in prices associated with the cost-of-living, is hovering between 1.7% and 2.2% for the Seattle/Tacoma region for 2019. The fact that our Union Coalition was able to negotiate a 4% increase for 2019 shows the strength of our Coalition and the power of an engaged and informed membership.
Members in King County's domestic violence advocacy program go out of their way to help people in crisis.
The face of the domestic violence advocacy program in King County is one of deep compassion. Thank you notes from clients are pinned to the wall of the advocates’ office in the Regional Justice Center in Kent expressing profound gratitude to the women who work there.
"I have such gratitude for your knowledge and presence."
One former victim writes, “I want to thank all of you for your help. I don’t even know any of your names, yet I have such gratitude for your knowledge and presence...” Some victims will reach out years after their case has been resolved or approach their advocates to thank them in the street.
“When you hear that people have moved on with their lives in a successful way – that’s rewarding,” says Sanetta Hunter, who has worked at the agency for more than 20 years.
Advocates often receive thank you mail from people who have been the victims of domestic violence.
In the United States, about one in three women experiences some form of abuse, including assault, rape, harassment and stalking. In 2018, there were nearly three thousand domestic violence cases filed in King County alone. Advocates in Kent and in the agency’s Seattle office provided assistance at 5,798 hearings and helped victims obtain 1,271 protection orders through the courts. It is an astonishing volume of work for the 20 Teamsters employed in the program.
Liz Evans and Kerwin Pyle came together from administrative and recycle department at King County to speak to Teamsters about the strength of solidarity.
“If you dug up a cardboard box from a landfill in fifty years you would still be able to read the words “Amazon” on it, but when it gets recycled we can still get two or three lifetimes out of it,” said Kerwin Pyle, recycling project manager at King County and Local 117 shop steward. Kerwin believes in protecting the environment and his co-workers.
Last month Kerwin paired with Liz Evans, administrative specialist, at the King County Administration Building where through a time loss program they were able to speak to fellow members who work at King County. They engaged their co-workers in conversations about the positive impact of recent contract wins, the importance of solidarity in the face of the opt-out campaign from the so-called Freedom Foundation, and the commitment to staying united for future fights.
“When we get involved in our union, we form a strong voice and can change the anti-worker policies,” Evans reflected. She has only been in her current position for a little over two years, but she already feels a strong obligation to her co-workers and stepped into a shop steward role. Coming from a non-unionized work environment, it didn’t take her long to realize the power of collective action.
Over the course of four days, Liz and Kerwin reached King County Teamsters working in solid waste, IT, the courthouse, archives, records, administration, and other areas. The conversations they had were overwhelmingly positive. The divisive efforts of corporate interests pushed through the Janus case last year are proving to be futile. Teamsters realize that although King County is not an anti-union environment, the efforts of the labor movement can be undone if members don’t stick together.
“If the next King County Executive comes in and wants to be a union buster, it is within their power to do so unless the union is your watchdog. That’s why I’m here. I’m a new shop steward who can back you up,” explained Pyle.
This time-loss campaign was built on the success of a previous one in June. Shop Steward Mari Jane Friel helped with the training as she recently did a similar time loss program to engage members working in King County roads.
These efforts are proving to be successful in coalescing members to be more aware and involved with their union as well as developing organizing skills for new leaders. Both stewards left the time loss program with new skills, enthusiasm about the union, and a deep desire to be more involved.
Teamsters at King County will see an extra chunk of money in their paychecks this month. The money comes as a result of months of hard work by members and staff who have been part of our King County Coalition of Unions.
The Coalition spent much of last year negotiating a Total Compensation Agreement, which all Teamster bargaining units overwhelmingly ratified last December. The Agreement covers your wages, benefits, and other compensable elements for 2019-2020.
With the contract approved, all Teamsters 117 members at the County received a 4% wage increase effective January 1, 2019. Before you could see the money reflected in your paycheck, the contract needed to be approved by the Council and the County Executive.
That process is now complete and your wage increase retroactive to January 1 has arrived.
Your contract also provides for a total of a 3% wage increase in 2020, divided into two parts: a 1.5% increase effective January 1, 2020 and a 1.5% increase effective July 1, 2020. You will also receive a $500 bonus on January 1, 2020 that applies to members of the King County Coalition of Unions only.
This week we celebrate Public Service Recognition Week (PSRW). This is a time to honor our public servants and express our gratitude for the critical services they provide.
Our members in the public sector clear our streets during snow emergencies, maintain our roads, clean up our parks, and keep our communities safe.
Too often public employees are the target of unwarranted criticism, but when disaster strikes they are usually the first to respond.
"That sense of duty and pride is so typical of our members who commit their lives to public service."
Take this last February, for example. When snowdrifts piled up on streets across the Pacific Northwest, most of us took time off to be with our families.
Not true with many of our public servants. Our members in public works braved the elements to operate the snowplows and clear the streets, while our law enforcement and corrections members valiantly reported for duty.
They knew their co-workers would carry a heavier burden if they stayed home and that it might even impact their safety. That sense of duty and pride is so typical of our members who commit their lives to public service.
Thank you to Teamsters who work in our cities, counties, and in state employment for your service. We are forever grateful.