Michael Rodriguez, a utility worker at the City of Pacific, says being part of a union makes his work a lot less difficult. Despite it being a demanding, frequently hazardous occupation, his membership in Teamsters 117 alleviates the work stress that a majority of Americans deal with on daily basis.
When speaking of stress at work, managerial and executive occupations come to mind, yet one of the highest predictors of workplace stress is lack of control over working conditions coupled with high demand. Inability to have a say in work hours and conditions of employment have profound health consequences resulting in heart attack rates three times higher than a random sample. Furthermore, job insecurity increases poor health by an incredible 50%, while long work hours contribute to increased mortality by almost 20%.
Americans today work longer hours, take less vacation and receive less pay for higher productivity which is coupled with towering rates of stress-related illnesses. In return for an opportunity to earn a living, we often relinquish our ability to have a say in conditions of employment and wages earned. It is the union that brings democracy back to the workplace and gives some of the control back to the workers. This power does not accrue overnight but is built upon years of collective bargaining and building of trust and solidarity among the workers.
For Rodriguez, building unity was worth it. “People frequently regard smaller cities as a stepping stone for other jobs with more pay and better opportunities,” he says. “But over the years we have negotiated strong contracts and workers stay.”
"We will not let anyone break what we have achieved here through years of solidarity."
His co-worker, Bill Brookhart, agrees. “As an individual alone you cannot stand up to the corporation. I have worked in non-unionized places, and there is no guarantee of or ability to negotiate job security, benefits, vacation or sick leave. I’m a diabetic and am insulin dependent. Having a good, union-negotiated health insurance makes a tremendous difference for me.”
Faced with the Supreme Court ruling on Janus, there was no hesitation among City of Pacific employees – every one of them chose to stand together as Teamsters. They have considered the effect that division could have on their contract negotiations and their power at work. The conclusion they came to was unanimous.
“You are either with us or you’re out,” said Rodriguez. “We will not let anyone break what we have achieved here through years of solidarity.”
As the U.S. Supreme Court announces its ruling in the Janus case, corporate powerbrokers are hoping to use the decision to divide workers who dare belong to a union. They are expecting union members will act against their own self-interest because nothing benefits the employer more than when workers abandon their collective power to stand up for fairness in the workplace.
Those efforts have failed with Teamsters at Tacoma Public Library where every member has pledged commitment to their coworkers and to remain a union member. It is a futile exercise to misinform a librarian. Shannon Rich is a supervisor at the main Tacoma branch and a fourth generation Teamster. She finds the narrative absurd that abandoning her union is beneficial to her in any way.
“That’s the whole nature of the union – the constant giving back and forth among its members,” she says. “Together we build the working class, and we cannot do it without standing all as one. People like the Koch brothers and other corporations know that. This is the only way they figured out to put a wedge in people’s unity. Yet it will only be effective if we let them.”
It took an extensive fight to bring the union to her workplace and most people who work there remember. The library strongly opposed their workers efforts to unionize, yet they prevailed. Maria Shackles, a manager at the Wheelock branch, refers to the grueling history of unions fighting for human rights at work as her reason to distance herself from the Supreme Court ruling and remain a Teamster.
"Together we build the working class, and we cannot do it without standing all as one."
“I want to honor the work of people who came before us who have made huge sacrifices over the history of our country for progress of workers’ rights. Now we are reaping the benefits of the union, and I feel really lucky. The underlying organizers who pushed for the Janus case are corporations that don’t want to acknowledge the positive changes unions bring to the economy.”
It is these benefits that Shannon credits for being the first in her family to attend college and passing this privilege on to her daughter. She says she is one of the few lucky people who take pleasure in their work. Yet her individual dedication and skill is not enough to make the Tacoma Library a safe place to work at. In the wake of mass shootings, it took collective action to convince the management to institute safety procedures and training at the library.
In the new era of open shop, Shannon knows the way to protect her union and their hard-earned wins is countering misinformation.
“Our job is to get as much information to as many people as we can reach, which is vital to our society. We, the workers at the library, are the backbone of that. The union helps workers understand that they are valuable as individuals and provides the means for a democratic workplace.”
Learn more at www.familystrengthcommunity.org.
Today the U.S. Supreme Court issued a ruling in a case, Janus v AFSCME, which threatens our ability as union members to stand together for strong contracts and strong communities.
As expected, the Court overturned a 40-year precedent that protected our freedom to have a united voice at work and ensured that all of us contribute our fair share for the improvements we win together.
Despite the Court’s ruling, our union is resilient and remains strong. We have been preparing for this outcome for over a year with our Family – Strength – Community program. By sticking together, we can continue to improve our wages and protect our rights at work.
The Court may have ruled against us in the Janus case, but as Teamsters we decide how strong our union will be. We will not let the Court or anyone else break our commitment to each other.
WHO’S ATTACKING OUR UNION?
It’s important to remember who is behind this attack on our freedom. For years, wealthy special interests like the so-called “Freedom” Foundation have been trying to destroy our union.
The "Freedom" Foundation lobbied against wage increases for state employees. They oppose our right to paid sick leave and our right to a secure retirement through defined benefit pension plans. We fought their attempts to obtain your personal information through public disclosure.
In the coming weeks, the "Freedom" Foundation may try to convince you to abandon your union membership by saying you can "opt out". They may send mail to your home, contact you on the phone, or even knock on your door.
They'll say you have nothing to lose. The truth is you have everything to lose – your contract, your health benefits, and your rights at work.
But if we stay united, we can continue to win improvements in our workplaces and for our families.
WHAT YOU CAN DO TO STAY STRONG!
- Wear your "We Decide" solidarity stickers this week at work - you can get them from your shop steward;
- Sign a card committing to your co-workers;
- Attend a Janus Decision Day Solidarity Rally in Tacoma or Seattle;
- Share a post on Facebook or Twitter about why you support our union using the hashtag #UnionStrong;
- Talk to your co-workers about the “Freedom” Foundation's anti-union agenda;
- Visit our union’s website at FamilyStrengthCommunity.org for more information.
Thank you for your service to our communities and for your membership in Teamsters 117.
Check out this video of Shannon Rich talking about the need for union members to stay united. Shanoon is a Local 117 member at the Tacoma Public Library:
We are expecting a ruling any day in the Janus v AFSCME court case. The case is an attempt to undermine the freedom of working people to have a meaningful voice at work.
It is the culmination of hundreds of millions of dollars spent by anti-worker corporate billionaires to weaken unions. But their efforts will fail.
Over the last few months, Teamsters across our union have learned about this attack by talking to each other. Thousands have signed cards committing to stay strong and stick together. You can join them by signing the online commitment card here.
As Teamsters, we know the value of strong unions to stand up to wealthy special interest groups who are using Janus to rig the economy against workers.
No court can take away our ability to stand together for fair pay, better benefits, and safe working conditions. The court may decide against us in the Janus case, but as Teamsters, we decide how strong our union will be.
If you ask a credential specialist at SeaTac Airport whether the Janus v. AFSCME case will threaten their union’s strength, they would chuckle and shake their head. Not on their watch.
This U.S. Supreme Court decision is expected to drop anytime between now and the end of June and set restrictions on the freedom and unity of working people. Yet this intrepid group that works on the mezzanine level of SeaTac Airport and handles the task of ensuring trustworthiness of airport employees has already made their decision.
"We will remain union members. We refuse to be divided."
“We will remain union members. We refuse to be divided,” said Maryanne Davis who has worked at the airport for over 18 years.
The credential specialists have fought hard for their current wages and benefits. Many of them remember when their entire group was fired several years ago and stayed out of work for months. They persevered until everyone was reinstated. This diverse group knows how important every person is to the security of the team, so every member has committed to remain a Teamster regardless of the Supreme Court ruling.
Now they are the middle of contract negotiations and Marilee Fisher, who is a shop steward and part of the negotiations committee, shared her opinion. “I believe in my union. I will always be a union supporter. As unions fight for better wages and better conditions, workers’ lives and pay improve even in non-union workplaces. If it weren’t for the unions, we would have no middle class.”
Get caught up on what's happening in total comp negotiations with King County! Two Shop Stewards on the bargaining committee - Brian Pinney and Lisa Huntley - provide a short video update from the last bargaining session below.
For a more comprehensive look at negotiations, you can link to all of our total comp updates so far.
Teamsters at the City of Black Diamond are speaking out for an equitable contract. On April 4, several members raised concerns in a council hearing about the City's failure to recognize members in negotiations.
Our members have made sacrifices by taking furlough days and wage freezes during the recession and a period of political instability. Now that the City is back on stable financial footing, it's time to recognize these public servants for the critical services they provide.
Check out the Courier-Herald's reporting on the issue here:
As Teamsters, we work hard at our jobs, but also strive to build stronger, more livable communities.
An exciting upcoming event at our Union Hall in Tukwila is designed to help us do just that. It's our Family Volunteer Day on Saturday, May 19 from 12 to 2pm.
We will be preparing 144 care packages for the homeless and making signs in solidarity with the teachers striking nationally. This is a family-friendly event and we will have plenty to do for all ages. Can you join us?
To ensure that we have enough hands on deck, we need your help. Please reach out to your co-workers and let them know about the event. Contact Taylor House at email@example.com or (206) 441-4860 ext 1251 with the names and phone numbers of members who plan to attend by May 15.
You can also RSVP for the event on our website.
This is a great way Teamster families can join together to give back to our community.
This week we pay tribute to our incredible nurses, members of Teamsters 117 who work at the Department of Corrections and the Washington State Nurses Association.
National Nurses Week begins each year on May 6 and ends on May 12, Florence Nightingale’s birthday. It features a host of events across the U.S. to honor nurses for the work they do and educates the public about nurses’ role in health care.
Nursing is a challenging profession that requires patience, professionalism, and compassion. Our Local 117 nurses work long hours, often with limited resources, in stressful environments to provide critical, ethical care.
We are incredibly grateful to our nurses for the essential, exceptional services they provide. Please take a moment to thank a nurse today!
Teamsters on our King County Coalition of Unions bargaining team for Total Comp negotiations.
Important revelations have emerged in recent Total Comp negotiations between our King County Coalition of Unions and the County.
For one, we’ve learned that the Master Labor Agreement (MLA), which we negotiated much of last year, is expected to go before the County Council today with a recommendation for approval. According to Megan Pederson, the Director of the Office of Labor Relations, the MLA should hit Dow’s desk for his signature the week of May 21.
Once signed by the County Executive, the agreement will be fully executed and members will receive retro pay negotiated in the agreement thereafter. The MLA, which King County Teamsters voted overwhelmingly to ratify earlier this year, provides a total wage increase of 3.25% for 2018 in addition to a number of other improvements.
At Total Comp negotiations with the County last Thursday, our union bargaining team received a presentation from expert advisers at Mercer about the state of our Protected Reserve Fund (PFR).
The PFR was established in 2013 by the Joint Labor Management Insurance Committee (JLMIC) to help safeguard health care benefits for union members at the County. Since then, the Fund has grown from $25 million to a projected $64 million in 2018.
This is excellent news and means that there will almost certainly be no employee premium share for the foreseeable future. Teamsters Local 117 has been instrumental in successfully managing the fund to protect the excellent health care benefits you enjoy as a union member at the County.
With this great news and negotiations underway, it’s more important than ever for us to stand together, stay united, and commit to each other. Click here to sign a commitment card and protect your freedom to stand together with your co-workers for a strong union. Learn more at www.FamilyStrengthCommunity.org.
In the next Total Comp session scheduled for May 17 in Tukwila, our Coalition team will be presenting a counterproposal as we continue the process of negotiating over the high-priority compensation elements in your contract, including wage increases for 2019 and 2020.
If you have questions, please talk to a bargaining committee member or your union representative.