Praxair Teamsters in Tacoma are ready to fight to defend their livelihoods.
The streets of Tacoma were a little louder early this morning. Starting at 3 a.m., a few dozen Teamsters, drivers and production workers employed at Praxair, took their fight for a fair contract to their employer's front door.
"Praxair, Praxair you can't hide - we can see your greedy side!" the group chanted as they circled outside the two entrances of the company's gated distribution facility. With Just Practicing signs slung across their shoulders, members are gearing up for a possible strike at the company. Many expressed frustration at their employer's substandard proposals in negotiations.
"We're ready to strike if necessary."
"The company is stalling and trying to take things away from us that they should be paying for - good medical, holiday pay, and a secure retirement," said Ric Shuttleworth, a 29-year production filler and shop steward on our union negotiations committee. "We're ready to strike if necessary."
Local 117 Secretary-Treasurer John Scearcy gathers up signs after "Just Practicing" picketing action.
Shuttleworth's counterpart on our union team is Brian Bruton. Bruton spends his day hauling heavy containers of industrial gasses to Seattle-area hospitals. For Bruton, one of the company's most insulting proposals is their attempt to use Washington State's new sick leave law as an excuse to strip away his co-workers' holiday pay.
"I think it's completely unfair," he says. "We're not asking for the moon - we just want fair wages, good union medical, and we're not going to give up our holiday."
After several rounds of negotiations and a unanimous strike authorization vote, the group will be heading into federal mediation tomorrow looking to secure just that.
UNFI TEAMSTERS STAND IN SOLIDARITY
Joining in solidarity with the Praxair picketers were several Local 117 members from UNFI's Supervalu warehouse just a stone's throw away. With UNFI implementing layoffs and relocating its Tacoma and Auburn facilities, members there know firsthand the challenges of working for an employer that puts shareholder profits above their workforce.
"We're coming out here to support our brothers and sisters," said UNFI steward Darren Sorrell. Fellow steward Greg Wiest added, "We're going through a labor dispute too, so we know what they're feeling like."
The two pledged to bring reinforcements if mediation fails. "Our members - both at Praxair and UNFI - know what it takes to win back respect from an employer intent on maximizing profits at all costs," said Local 117 Secretary-Treasurer John Scearcy, who led the group in chants this morning. "We're prepared to fight, and the great thing about our union is that we have each others' backs."
UNFI stewards Greg Wiest and Darren Sorrell rise early to support their fellow Teamsters.
During our last DOC Retirement Committee meeting, members of the committee developed a survey to solicit your feedback about retirement.
The survey takes just a few minutes to complete and will help the committee make policy recommendations, which is the first step toward improving benefits.
Once the results are in, the committee will research what is fiscally and politically feasible and what will have the greatest impact on the membership as a whole.
As this process unfolds, we will continue to keep you updated on the work of the committee.
We are asking that you complete the survey by no later than September 16, 2019. Thank you!
You may recall that DOC Teamsters, working in concert with our union's Legislative Affairs Department, successfully lobbied the legislature to secure funding in 2018 for a comprehensive staffing level audit at the DOC.
At the time, the DOC had been operating under a staffing model that had not been reviewed in 30 years. An external audit was the first step in addressing insufficient staffing levels in our State's prisons.
That external review of the Department, conducted by CGL Companies, is now complete and the company has published a report with a number of important findings.
As suspected, the audit revealed that the Department is significantly understaffed in several areas. The report concluded, for example, that an additional 250 custody staff are required above levels funded and that there are severe shortages in a number of non-custody areas as well.
You can review the entire DOC Prison Staffing Model Report here.
This week a group of rank-and-file members and union staff met with the State at our Union Hall in Tukwila to hear DOC's assessment of the audit. The Department indicated that they are developing a plan to request additional positions from the legislature.
Our union's Political Department is also in the process of developing a strategy for working with the legislature, in coordination with the Department, to begin securing funding for additional positions to meet current demand as recommended by the audit.
Needless to say, we'll need your help and an excellent turnout at next year's Lobby Day to make sure our legislators understand that DOC is severely understaffed and how that impacts staff safety.
Margarita Martinez fought to win a massive settlement for her co-workers at Leadpoint/Republic.
At the Republic Services recycling depot in downtown Seattle, members of Teamsters 117 process thousands of tons of paper, metals, and plastics daily. Trucks snake into the 3rd and Lander facility to dump their loads, which our members bulldoze and bundle for rail transport to locations across the West.
An essential part of the work requires careful sorting of the materials. Republic subcontractor, Leadpoint, employs hundreds at the Seattle facility to perform this work. This painstaking, dirty, and dangerous job has resulted in serious industrial accidents. In 2015, the Washington State Department of Labor and Industries fined Leadpoint $77,600 for serious safety violations at its Material Recovery Center in Vancouver, WA.
In 2016, our union discovered something else: Leadpoint was treating its Seattle employees like garbage, and Republic Services was complicit in the abuse. Workers were locked out of bathrooms, forced to change into their gear in the parking lot, and paid below Seattle’s minimum wage standards. Leadpoint employees who tried to organize a union were subjected to harassment and intimidation.
Margarita Martinez was one of those workers. An ardent union supporter, Martinez was sent home by company management without pay on several occasions. Neither Leadpoint nor Republic could offer a good explanation for the discipline.Read more
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.Read more
The 2020 election is right around the corner and as union members we want to make sure candidates are listening to our issues.
Our International Teamsters Union has put together a short survey to help identify issues that are most important to members like you.
The survey asks you to rate the importance of things like retirement security, health care, and preserving collective bargaining. Will you take the survey?
Issues our union identifies will help us hold politicians accountable and ensure that candidates on both sides of the political aisle are addressing the needs of working families.
Thank you for your participation!
Mark Hackett has worked on campus for over twelve years.
When you are a police officer at UWPD, you never know in the morning what your day will bring. It could range from responding to a car prowl case to something more serious, such as a gun threat, or you might be fishing unruly students out of the quite deep and polluted Drumheller fountain again. With the beginning of the academic year, thousands of new freshmen students are expected at the UW, and police officers will be going to student orientations to do safety trainings and talk to parents and students who might be out on their own for the first time.
" I want to thank past members, past Teamster Reps, and all who made this bill a reality."
Officer Mark Hackett has done this job for over twelve years and knows that patience and diplomacy are his assets when resolving incidents involving students in a college environment.
“We’re here as a resource for the students, and we want them to succeed. We want to keep them safe,” he shared.
Officer Hackett appreciates the necessity of a union for performing his best at a job laced with daily uncertainty and danger. His coworkers formed a guild when he first came to the UWPD, but around 2010 things began to change. A new police chief moved in from a right-to-work state and contract violations began to compound. Hackett and his team realized they needed more power to face the injustices creeping up in their workplace and decided to join Teamsters 117.
“The University of Washington is a very powerful entity and a very large employer, so we needed the backing of a powerful union,” mentioned Hackett.
After joining the Teamsters, officers had their contract respected again and gained invaluable representational support and help with legal matters.
“At the end of the day, I need to get home to my wife and daughter. Having a good contract means having good equipment and increased safety,” Hackett said.
One of the biggest issues for officers at the UWPD was that they were not interest arbitration eligible. They were hopeful that joining Teamsters 117 would help them make progress toward that goal, and they were not disappointed. After almost a decade of Teamsters fighting for interest arbitration, the Governor has signed the bill and 6000 members, including UWPD officers, were granted access to a neutral arbitrator for resolution of negotiations that have reached impasse.
Along with Teamsters 117 President, Michelle Woodrow, Hackett and his co-workers are celebrating the passage of an interest arbitration bill.
Here Hackett puts it in his own words:
“After facing many difficult challenges the Campus Police Officers at the University of Washington joined Teamsters 117 in 2011. The transition was not easy. We faced a difficult and unknown future as we worked to achieve our first Teamsters collective bargaining agreement. Our UWPD members had a clear conversation about future goals and had high expectations of our Union. Our Teamster’s Business Reps, Attorneys, and the President of our local, had a very direct response. We needed to change the law. We needed to have the same rights as other police officers in our state. We needed interest arbitration!
Approximately 8 years later, Governor Inslee will put pen to paper and Senate Bill 5022, granting interest arbitration to Campus Police Officers throughout the State of Washington. I want to thank past members, past Teamster Reps, and all who made this bill a reality. Our members, our Union, our work, make a difference!”
Today, Hackett is celebrating this monumental achievement with his co-workers as smoke rises from the grill, and Teamsters enjoy a BBQ outside their station. If you are ever at the UW campus, know that officers there are 100% behind their union.
Joel Bruch and William Flores after assisting in apprehending a runaway inmate at Olympic Correctional Center. Photo credit: OCC
It was early Tuesday morning, and Correctional Officer William Flores was scouting along the creeks of Clearwater River two miles south of the Olympic Correctional Center searching for an inmate who had escaped the correctional facility three days ago. Inmate recovery units from Olympic, Stafford Creek, Clallam Bay and Cedar Creek Corrections Centers were deployed combing through the Olympic National forest and giving heads up to the loggers in the area.
Flores was searching for tracks in the mud near the riverbank when he saw a logger, Joel Bruch, whom he had spoken to only a few minutes earlier driving back hastily. It turned out that Bruch had just spotted an older man who matched the fugitive’s description, and Flores responded immediately.
They drove back to the spot, and soon Flores spotted their guy with a backpack across his shoulder. The inmate, Mark Vannausdle, who was serving his final years of a 20-year sentence for assault and armed robbery, stood at the bottom of a hill. He was known to be a good runner and on the day of his escape he had bolted out of a bus as he was transported to the dining hall and disappeared in the forest.
Now, Flores looked at this familiar yellow jacket and called out to the inmate identifying himself and giving him directions to stop. Instead, Vannausdle chose to sprint up the hill. Flores ran after him but when he reached the top of the hill, the inmate was already out of sight. It wasn’t long before Flores found the fugitive hiding in the nearby bushes. This time, Vannausdle listened to Flores’s instructions. Flores waited for the rest of the search team, who arrived in less than 10 minutes, and at 7:37 a.m., Mark Vannausdle was apprehended without any injuries and in good condition.
“We didn’t want anyone to get hurt, that’s our main objective,” reflected Flores.
For William Flores, who has worked at Olympics Correctional Center for almost eight years and received the Officer of the Year award two years ago, it was his first inmate recovery deployment. He is proud and content that he was able to assist in returning the inmate to the custody of the Department of Corrections.
“We are a minimum security facility, and I enjoy working there. We are working on putting people on a path to be integrated with their communities rather than being just an incarceration facility,"said Flores. Today, he is taking a well-deserved rest knowing that residents of the nearby communities will sleep free from anxiety tonight.
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.
Monty Johnson has worked his forklift for twenty-four years at the SUPERVALU warehouse, later purchased by UNFI.
In the dim interior of the UNFI warehouse in Tacoma, you have to be quick on your feet. With short beeps, forklifts and pellet jacks zooming by, there is no time to waste. Teamsters who work here know their jobs well and do them efficiently.
Perhaps no one is better at it than Monty Johnson. Monty has never missed a day of work in all combined twenty-four years of working at the SUPERVALU warehouse which was recently purchased by the food giant UNFI. Not a sick day and rarely any vacation days, even when it meant losing the accumulated hours, the warehouse is his bread and air.
When the company went through layoffs and he had to submit for his severance, he did so with a heavy heart. Soon they remembered his tireless work ethic and asked him to come back. He did so in a heartbeat. The warehouse was his home – the place he knew inside and out. He came back to his old forklift, and it was like he never left. Dashing between rows of shelves stacked up to the ceiling, Monty doesn’t need a chart to decipher the numbers indicating which products go on which shelves. He knows them by heart. Hundreds upon hundreds of slots, this maze to an external observer is a familiar tune to him.
Teamsters at the warehouse waste no time. They are quick, efficient and ready to flash a smile.
One day the company president got a hold of him and asked: “Are you the guy who never missed a day in this place? Why did you do that?” What he didn’t understand was that when Monty came to Washington State in the 90s looking for a stable job to care for his young family, this union job offered back then by SUPERVALU gave him a jump-start to a secure life, and for that Monty is eternally grateful. You can’t tell by his energetic smile, but his kids are all grown up now, and he has welcomed grandchildren to his family.
When Monty shows up to work every single day and pours his heart out, he doesn’t do it to compound profits for shareholders who wouldn’t step into his warehouse for an hour. The product of his daily work is getting food from the warehouse to the supermarket shelves on time so that thousands of people in Pierce County can buy food that was kept cool, fresh, and undamaged.
For Monty, it is the Teamster sisters and brothers who work at warehouse that make the place like home.
It wasn’t Monty’s or any of his co-workers’ decision to sell the warehouse to UNFI, relocate it to Centralia, or try to fight the union workers and squeeze their livelihood in an attempt to eke out a slightly fatter margin of profit. Neither will they succumb to company pressure after dedicating a lifetime to this work.
Monty sees his workplace pulled apart to be relocated and shakes his head. “The new company is doing things to accommodate themselves and are not respecting the workers who do the daily grinding work of making the company successful. They don’t understand that if they take care of us, we take care of them.”