High winds travelled across Washington State last week uprooting trees and downing power lines. Thousands of residents were left without power. In Lake Forest Park, a crew of 6 public works employees responded to reports of wreckage caused by the winds. They cleared fallen branches from the roads and cleared the space for telecommunications and electrical utility services to make repairs. The crew performing this frequently dangerous job are Teamsters. They are the invisible force that takes care of street flooding, issues with water and sewage, and all the other tasks that keep the roads open and functional.
The group at Lake Forest Park organized 15 years ago, and their shop steward, Ian Murray, would still make the same decision today. They face day-to-day challenges with their management. He commented: “Without a union, management cannot be held accountable even if there are bad consequences for the public or the employees. When we are united and effective, they back off. Otherwise, we would lose our jobs on their whim.” The majority of members at Lake Forest Park have held their jobs for over a decade.
"When we are united and effective, they back off."
Murray has just gone through contract negotiations, and his team’s new contract goes into effect on the first day of 2019. In addition to a wage increase, they will receive a bump in compensation for “stand by” days, which happen when the whole crew is placed on call in case their help is needed due to severe weather events.
The highlight of the contract, however, is replacement of the Quartermaster system. Getting new gear – work clothes and boots – used to be a hassle. They had to submit the old work clothes before applying for replacement. This always resulted in management-controlled delay during which the workers had to wear their own clothes and boots. Since public works employees frequently operate in dangerous and grimy environments, their gear is expensive and has to meet safety standards. Now, with the new contract, they will receive a yearly stipend for their own gear and have control over access to professional clothing.
As more wind and rain are expected this week, Lake Forest Park Teamsters climb into their trucks and drive off to continue clearing the highway and preparing for the next tempest. Some of them will be on the road on Christmas Day and New Year’s Day. If you see them driving by, send them a salute.
Join us for our Holiday Membership Meeting extravaganza this Thursday, December 20 from 7-9pm at the union hall in Tukwila.
As always, we'll have our annual raffle drawing, where members can win from a bevy of holiday prizes.
Electronics, power tools, bottles of wine, gift cards, games, big screen tvs, and best of all, NUTS, will be awarded during the meeting. All of the gifts are purchased from companies with whom Local 117 has a bargaining relationship.
If you work graveyard and are unable to attend the meeting, be sure to stop by the hall during the day on Thursday for some cookies and holiday cheer and to put your name in for the raffle.
All members are welcome! You can RSVP for the meeting online here.
Teamsters 117 Secretary-Treasurer John Scearcy (c) together with union staff at the Shop Steward Seminar in March.
The votes are in! Teamsters 117 Secretary-Treasurer John Scearcy has been elected to serve as one of five vice presidents of the Washington State Labor Council’s First District and will serve under the new leadership of incoming President-elect Larry Brown and Secretary-Treasurer April Sims. The results of the election were certified last Thursday by an election committee of the WSLC.
The Washington State Labor Council, AFL-CIO is the largest union organization in Washington State with over 600 affiliated local unions and organizations, representing some 450,000 rank-and-file union members.
“I am honored to serve the working men and women across Washington State,” Scearcy said. “I will always strive to build a labor movement that is inclusive, bold, and reflective of the values all workers share - wages to raise a family, strong communities, a secure retirement, and respect in the workplace.”
Earlier this year Scearcy was recognized as Best Principal Officer of the Year by the Martin Luther King Labor Council.
“The labor movement needs more leaders like John Scearcy,” said newly-elected WSLC President-elect Larry Brown. “I respect what he brings to this movement, and the labor council is so lucky to have his voice on our executive board.”
Teamster electrician Marci Solomon oversees the electrical work at the Tacoma Dome.
Marci Solomon is a force of nature. Within moments of my meeting her at the Tacoma Dome this morning, she’s launched into stories about cross-country road trips on her Harley, rescuing bulldogs, and navigating the machismo she confronts as a woman working in a male-dominated trade.
Marci is a lead Teamster electrician and has run the show at the Dome for the last ten years. She inspects transformers and circuits, scampers across rigging 85 feet in the air, and illuminates the big acts that come to town from Garth Brooks to AC/DC.
“I’m responsible for every light in this building,” she says.
Last month Marci was recognized by her peers as Tradeswoman of the Year at an awards ceremony put on by Washington Women in the Trades. She was ecstatic when nominated for the award by a co-worker and even more pumped when she found out she’d won.
“I could have lit up the city,” she said. “It was as if every amperage and voltage in my body was off the charts.”
"It was as if every amperage and voltage in my body was off the charts."
Life in the trades as a woman can be a bit of a challenge. Both the building trades and the music business are swimming in testosterone. When event promoters come into town and learn that the only electrician at the Dome is a woman, many are chauvinistically skeptical.
“A lot of times they roll their eyes,” she explains. “But later, they’ll come back and say, Marci was great. I think they feel guilty because they dissed me in the beginning.”
Marci is a proud, faithful dues-paying member of not one, but two unions - Teamsters 117 and IBEW 76. When the Janus court ruling came down mandating open shop in the public sector, Marci was quick to make the rounds speaking with her co-workers about the need to stick with the union. She helped her union rep, Julie Yust, get 100% of the Teamsters at the Dome signed up on commitment cards.
“Unions equalize things out,” Marci says. “It doesn’t matter what gender or race you are, you get the same pay, the same benefits. The union is there for its members.” Marci appreciates the work of her rep, but also believes members need to do their part to keep the union strong.
Her mantra is all about union pride: “You’re in a union - act proud, work proud, be proud.”
Congratulations, Marci, on your much-deserved recognition as Tradeswoman of the Year and thank you for your exemplary service as a member of this union.
Teamsters Marcel Zanze, Local 117 Rep Takele Gobena, and Floro Carig celebrating their victory at Hertz.
When Marcel Zanze, a trained geologist, first came to the US, he put his education on hold and rolled up his sleeves to work for Hertz at the airport rental car facility. His family needed him to provide a steady income, and he has done so for 15 years cleaning and maintaining rental cars.
“I never thought I would last here for even 5 months, but now I want my daughter to look up to me for being a hard worker who persevered through tough times,” he said.
Though the job was providing a sustained living, every penny mattered.
In November 2013, Seatac became the first city to pass a $15 minimum wage ordinance that Teamsters wore out shoes knocking on doors to pass. Since then, Marcel’s wages have been slowly catching up with the new minimum wage.
In January of this year, the union-negotiated a 20 cent per hour increase which was set to kick in, but when Marcel looked at his paycheck, he saw none of that.
With Hertz withholding his wage increase, Marcel’s team spoke out with the help of their union rep, Takele Gobena.
At first, the Company tried to deny the validity of their request, but they were forced to reach out to their contract negotiator who had already retired in another state. The negotiator, however, only confirmed Marcel’s claim.
This week, Hertz is paying back upwards of $34,000 in retroactive pay to its workers. Wage increases will also take place in 2019 and 2020.
“The only time I skipped work was during the snowstorm of ’08,” said George Gapasin, Marcel’s co-worker of 15 years. “I work hard and put money aside to visit my family in Japan. This payout will put me one step closer to this goal.”
With the rise in housing prices and the cost of living, this is not the end of the fight for Marcel.
The Teamsters contract at Hertz expires in 2020, and he will be at the table negotiating to further improve his wages and working conditions.
Teamster funeral directors with union rep John Howell, Jr. (l) gather together at Mt. View Cemetery in Lakewood.
Cemetery and funeral work is not for the faint of heart. It takes someone with incredible compassion and the ability to routinely perform end-of-life rituals that most of us would prefer not to think about.
Teamsters who work at Mt. View Cemetery in Lakewood provide comfort to families at the most vulnerable point in their lives. They preside over cremations, embalm and prepare the deceased for viewing, and ready the gravesite for burial.
Christine Walker, a Teamster of three years, operates the cremation furnace at Mt. View. The most wrenching part of her job, she says, is when families request to witness the cremation of their loved ones. “Being here with the family is always hardest, especially when there are children involved.”
Christine Walker, a three-year Teamster, operates the cremation furnace at Mt. View.
The work has immeasurable value and requires considerable training and skill, yet their employer has been slow to recognize its significance.
For nearly a year, Local 117 members at Mt. View fought for fair pay, affordable health care, and protections that are standard in other union agreements. Just last week the group of funeral directors and cemetery workers had something to celebrate: The unanimous ratification of their new contracts.
Through the long contract fight, members showed fortitude and determination. They voted to authorize a strike in October and struck down a substandard contract offer during mediation. Both votes were unanimous.
“The unity the group showed was key,” said Local 117 Vice President and lead negotiator Marcus Williams. “It provided our negotiations team with real leverage at the bargaining table.”
"How much care goes into this place sometimes gets overlooked." - Jeremiah Sandstrom, Local 117 cemetery worker.
Eventually, NorthStar, the massive funeral services conglomerate that owns Mt. View, got the message. Members won higher wage increases than they’d seen in years and fought back takeaways to their health care coverage. They also achieved full retro pay to the contract expiration date, something they had not accomplished in the past.
“Our members at Mt. View comfort families during a time of incredible stress and uncertainty,” said John Scearcy, Secretary-Treasurer of Teamsters 117. “This contract goes a step further toward recognizing the invaluable services they provide our community.”
Congress has finally acknowledged what Teamsters have been saying for years…there is a pension crisis in this country and Congress must resolve it to protect workers and our economy.
While the Western Conference of Teamsters Pension Trust (WCTPT), which provides retirement benefits to many members of Teamsters 117, is on strong financial footing, other pension plans around the country are in need of immediate relief.
That was the message delivered this October by representatives and trustees of the WCTPT at a training for union officers, union staff, and rank-and-file Teamster leaders from across the West.
Thanks to the activism of Teamsters in the room and across the country, Congress has recently set up a Joint Select Committee to work towards a solution to ensure the solvency of multi-employer pension plans.
We urge the Committee and all of our Representatives and Senators in Congress to reject the GROW Act, which would permit draconian cuts to workers’ benefits and subject retirees to devastating cuts to their pensions.
For pension reform that protects workers, our union is supporting the Butch Lewis Act (H.R. 4444/ S. 2147). Butch Lewis provides a path to financial health for troubled pension plans, alleviates pressure on the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation, and ensures that current and future retirees receive all of the benefits that they've earned.
Take Action to Protect Worker Pensions Now! Reach out to your Senators and Representatives in Congress and urge them to support the Butch Lewis Act. The more bi-partisan support the legislation garners, the more likely it is to be adopted by the Committee.
Richard Coleman (center) fighting for interest arbitration at the Local 117 Day of Action event in Olympia in 2012.
Richard Coleman has his sights set on travel. The longtime Walla Walla resident has imagined destinations closer to home, and others further afield: from the Oregon Coast to the beaches of Belize, from the Civil War battlefields of Virginia to the Baltic states in Eastern Europe.
After 36 years of public service, trips once unfathomable are about to become a reality.
With retirement just a hair's breadth away, he credits his union for allowing him to bow out earlier than he’d imagined. Thanks to hard-fought wage increases over the last three contract cycles achieved through interest arbitration, he’s seen his social security and state pension benefits swell.
“Interest arbitration has been phenomenal in helping to raise our pay,” he said. “Without this level of income, I’d have to be working a couple years more. Now I have a good, solid retirement base.”
"Now I have a good, solid retirement base."
For Coleman, retirement from the Department of Corrections comes this February, the 28th of the month to be precise - not that anyone’s counting.Read more
The results are in! Teamsters stepped up and donated dozens of pints of blood for our Local 117 Blood Drive on November 17. In all, 63 donors registered and our partners at Cascade Regional Blood Services were able to draw 48 pints of blood.
Thank you to all the Teamsters, both current members and retirees, who attended the event.
Donating blood ensures that there are ample reserves when disasters strike. Cancer survivors, burn victims, surgery patients, sick kids – they all benefit from donated blood.
Members of Teamsters 117 have been donating blood for over 25 years at our annual Blood Drive.
In December, we will be conducting contract ratification meetings for all Teamsters who work at King County.
At the meetings, you will have an opportunity to vote on an agreement that covers your compensation, health care, and compensable benefits for 2019-2020. The agreement was negotiated between the County and our King County Coalition of Unions.
This “total comp” proposal includes a 4% general wage increase for 2019 and a total of 3% general wage increase for 2020 plus a $500 bonus offered to Coalition Union members only. Our Union Coalition recommends that you vote "yes" to approve the proposal.
Some bargaining units will also be voting on individual unit appendix agreements in addition to the total comp agreement.
To prepare for the vote, please review voting documents available here.
To vote, you must attend one of the drop-in ratification meetings below. If you have any questions, please contract your union representative or shop steward.