The United States Supreme Court’s decision in Harris v. Quinn is the latest—and most dangerous—threat to the labor movement.
The decision did not deliver the fatal blow that many public sector unions had feared, but that is precisely why it is so dangerous: as we all breathe a sigh of relief, we are at risk of getting lulled back to sleep.
The issue is “union security”: the rule that permits unions (in some states) to require represented employees to pay their fair share of the costs of:
- having a voice at work;
- having a contract that guarantees rates of compensation, benefits, and working conditions;;
- having professional advocacy in the workplace, under the grievance procedure, in the courts, and in the policy debate that occurs at all levels of the political arena.
The Supreme Court’s decision in Harris v. Quinn makes it clear that they will support a gradual erosion of union security. We are the frog in the pot of warm water, and the Court has just turned up the heat.
Unions are the only organizations that express worker power through a common voice. It is no surprise that corporations are looking to wipe us out—that isn’t new.
What is new is that this Supreme Court—which has recently and repeatedly affirmed the superiority of corporate rights over any other interest—has in this decision signaled that it will support corporate efforts to erode worker power, further tilting our economy out of balance.
Make no mistake: the horde is at the gate.
What To Do?
The best way to protect yourself from these kinds of attacks is to affirm your support of your Union with your co-workers, get involved in contract negotiations, learn more about your Union, and talk about the threat of “right-to-work.” (the manipulative lingo that is used to sell the elimination of union security).
Let your co-workers know that you understand the value of having a strong Union and that when one person tries to claim the benefits of a Union without contributing his or her fair share, it harms all of us.
By sticking together and supporting each other and your Union, you will ensure that you always have a strong voice at work, and in the legal and political arenas.
Tacoma Joint Labor Update
As most of you know, Tacoma Joint Labor is a coalition of unions that bargains your health and welfare plans. This committee is comprised of Teamsters 117, Teamsters 313, IBEW 483, IPT 17 and AFSME.
Bargaining has been ongoing for a number of months, and the unions continue to fight to maintain and improve the level of benefits members of Tacoma labor unions receive.
To date, bargaining has been somewhat contentious and focused on language; however, moving forward we will be discussing the cost and design of our health plans, and the design and implementation of a wellness program. Some changes will be driven by the Affordable Care Act.
We are pleased to report that the Coalition of King County Unions has negotiated a tentative agreement with the County that includes cost-of-living increases for all impacted County employees in 2015 and 2016. Your Union's General Counsel Spencer Thal was one of the lead negotiators for the Coalition.
The agreement also includes a flat lump sum bonus of $500 per employee payable to Coalition bargaining unit members only on or before December 31, 2014.
This agreement is fully recommended by the Union's negotiations team. You can access a detailed summary document that outlines the changes here.
Each bargaining unit will have an opportunity to vote on the agreement before August 14. We will be holding informational meetings in the coming weeks. Please stay tuned for times and locations.
Dozens of Teamsters joined thousands in the streets of Seattle on Sunday for the annual Pride celebration.
Local 117 members from the public sector, private sector, and the Department of Corrections marched alongside the massive Teamster semi truck under the banner of equality for all workers.
Members danced, cheered, and waved at spectators along the route that crossed through downtown Seattle along 4th Ave. to the Seattle Center. The Local 117 contingent followed behind a flatbed truck with a DJ who was lauded by our friends at Working Washington for his music selection.
Check out photos from the event here.
As a Teamster, you have the right to Union representation during an “investigatory interview” that could lead to disciplinary action. These rights are called your Weingarten Rights.
If you are called to a meeting with management and you think that the meeting could lead to disciplinary action, you should:
- Request that your Business Representative or Shop Steward be present at the meeting. You must make a clear request for union representation before or during the interview.
- If a Union representative is not available, ask that the meeting be rescheduled.
- If your employer insists on conducting the meeting without the presence of a Union representative, inform your employer that your Weingarten Rights are being violated and call your Business Representative immediately.
If you have questions about your Weingarten rights, talk to your Business Representative.
The debate about the minimum wage is spreading, with Seattle approving the highest minimum wage in the country last month. The James R. Hoffa Memorial Scholarship Fund has announced this year's Essay Contest that addresses the topic:
"The vast majority of union members make more than the minimum wage. Why should Teamsters care what the minimum wage is?"
The scholarship is open to students attending or planning to attend a community college, 4-year institution, or a technical/vocational program, age 23 and younger, who are the son, daughter or financial dependent of an eligible Teamster member.
The deadline for submission of your essay and application is September 30, 2014.
On Tuesday, May 27, 2014, representatives of the King County Coalition of Unions met with King County to present the Coalition’s counterproposal regarding the 2015/2016 COLA.
Check out the new issue of Teamsters South Sound, the newsletter for Local 117 members in the public sector living in greater Pierce County. In this issue you’ll find stories on:
- Members at the City of Tacoma restoring a historic street sprinkler
- Paint Tacoma Beautiful – a call for volunteers
- Recognition of our members in the public sector
- A look at our strategic plan
- The Car & Bike Show on June 21
You can access a PDF of Teamsters South Sound here. For print copies, talk to your Business Representative.
Street sprinklers were invented in the 1850s as a means to suppress airborne dust on unpaved roads. Street sprinkling was necessary because the accumulation of manure and horse urine, as well as other foul and vile contributions from overflowing cesspools and the like, was considered a health hazard by physicians.
They feared tuberculosis, cholera, and even polio could be transmitted by breathing the offensive smelling dust coming off city streets. Of course, it was also a nuisance for business owners and shopkeepers as the dust settled on everything from desktops to farm fresh produce, sometimes making the latter completely worthless. Sprinkling the streets was absolutely necessary to keep the dust at bay.
Street sprinkling wagons were operated by Teamsters who filled the tanks from hydrants and traveled slowly up one side of the street and down the other, dampening the ground along the way. Some entrepreneurs operated their own wagons and contracted for the service while larger cities usually assumed responsibility for protecting public health and safety. Such was the case at the City of Tacoma. They had several sprinkling wagons operating near the turn of the century.
Congratulations to the following members at the Seattle Housing Authority who are being recognized for their years of service:
Lonny L. Howard
These members will be recognized at a luncheon event at the Edgewater hotel on Monday, May 12, as a part of Public Service Recognition Week. In honor of our state's public employees, Local 117 Secretary-Treasurer Tracey Thompson has published a guest editorial in the Everett Herald.
Thank you to all public sector members for your service to our community!