The fall issue of our DOC Guardian newsletter is hot off the press!
In this issue, you'll find a story about a true Teamster hero, William Flores, who apprehended a runaway inmate from the Olympic Corrections Center near Forks.
You'll also find articles about the work of our DOC Retirement Committee and news about the independent audit report that identified severe staffing shortages in WA State prisons.
Print copies will be distributed at your facility over the next few weeks.
Meet your Teamsters 117 Executive Board (from l to r): Alfredo Espino, Dave Roberts, Brenda Wiest, John Scearcy, Michelle Woodrow, Robin Robinson, Scott Anderson
At our General Membership Meeting last night, our Union held its nominations meeting in a packed Union hall in Tukwila for all Teamsters 117 Executive Board positions.
Congratulations to John Scearcy, Local 117’s current Secretary-Treasurer together with Michelle Woodrow, our current President, along with our Union's entire Executive Board! Secretary-Treasurer Scearcy and his team were nominated by the members to continue to lead our Union for the next three years. With no other nominations at the meeting, a union election at Teamsters 117 is not necessary.
“I am honored and humbled to continue to serve the members of this great Union,” Secretary-Treasurer Scearcy said. “We will continue to fight to bargain strong contracts and to expand the wages and benefits of all members of Teamsters 117. We'll also work to build stronger communities where all workers and their families can thrive.
"Our overarching goal is to build power and unity to improve lives and lift up our communities."
“Our overarching goal is to build power and unity to improve lives and lift up our communities so that working people of all stripes have a fighting chance to make a better life for themselves and their families.
“Thank you to everyone who believed in our vision for a better future for members of Teamsters 117. We are grateful to you and to all of our members who work so hard to support their families and make our union strong.”
The Teamsters 117 Executive Board includes:
- John Scearcy – Secretary-Treasurer
- Michelle Woodrow – President
- Brenda Wiest – Vice President
- Dave Roberts – Recording Secretary
- Scott Anderson – Trustee
- Alfredo Espino – Trustee
- Robin Robinson – Trustee
Seattle Uber and Lyft drivers responded favorably to a proposal put forth by Mayor Jenny Durkan today to raise driver pay and allow drivers to appeal unwarranted deactivations. The Mayor’s plan would engage the driver community in developing a fair pay standard. It would also give drivers who have been terminated from a TNC platform access to a hearing with representation before an appeals panel.
“Drivers should not be fired by an algorithm without recourse,” said Mohamed Aria, who was one of the first Uber drivers in the Seattle market. “I helped Uber build their business, even referring my own customers. But after 6 years of high ratings and maximum customer satisfaction, I was deactivated without reason. It has been a year now since I lost the ability to work and support my family. The Uber staff at the local office have no answers. I applaud the Mayor for putting labor standards for drivers – including accountability and the right to appeal unfair deactivations – back on the city’s agenda.”
Mayor Durkan announced the proposal at a press conference at the Yesler Community Center on Thursday along with a plan to implement a fee on all TNC trips in the city. Revenue from the proposed fee would fund investments in driver support services, and community investments in affordable housing and transit improvements.
"We’re not going to stop organizing until we earn a living wage."
“All Uber and Lyft drivers in Seattle: we are here today, seeing progress, because drivers have been organizing and fighting back,” said Peter Kuel, a Lyft driver for over 5 years and steering committee member of the App-Based Drivers Association, which is affiliated with Teamsters 117. “As drivers, we bear all of the expenses of operation and all of the risks on the road, and we’re not going to stop organizing until we earn a living wage.”
According to the Federal Reserve, 58% of gig economy workers cannot afford a $400 emergency expense. This means that thousands of drivers in Seattle are one vehicle repair away from an economic crisis. Seattle’s more than 30,000 Uber and Lyft drivers – many of whom are immigrants and people of color for whom driving is their only source of income – lack minimum wage protections or paid sick leave and other worker benefits.
“Uber and Lyft drivers in Seattle provide important transportation services to our community and should earn a living wage,” said John Scearcy, Secretary-Treasurer of Teamsters 117. “Drivers are looking forward to participating in a wage study to provide real data to study leaders so that drivers are compensated for their expenses, can afford benefits, and are paid fairly.”
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.
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.