Sisters and Brothers,
Amazon recently announced a wage increase to a minimum of $15 for all of its workers. This decision is a direct result of public and political pressure on the company as reports of worker abuse and safety violations are mounting. However, the giant internet retailer is free to display a public act of generosity while simultaneously cutting employees’ bonuses and stock awards. This happens because the company is not held accountable internally for the decisions taken which directly affect the employees.
The Teamsters shop that you are working at, at one point, had no union. The workers at that location had to make the daunting decision to change how things are. They risked their position and their families' livelihoods to stand together as one and break through their employer’s resistance. They demanded that their right to negotiate with the employer for wages, working conditions, and benefits be recognized, and they won their fight.
We cannot forget these fights, and many of us never do. Our Sisters and Brothers who keep our union strong step out of the daily routine to advocate for co-workers. These are the shop stewards and member leaders who understand that our strength is in our unity and that solidarity is our weapon. They have the same work and family obligations as the rest of us, but they choose to lead, learn, and stand up for fairness at work. They sit through contract negotiations, dispel anti-union propaganda, and constantly organize their peers for strength.
At the membership meeting in September, we honored many members who sat on the negotiations committees and the graduates of our first ever Teamsters Leadership Academy who dedicated their time for eight months to cultivate their leadership and worker advocacy skills. It is important that we all recognize the hard work, passion, and dedication of members who step up to the task and become the advocates of our union to keep us strong and move us forward.
Workers need unions, and our children who are entering the workforce depend on today’s Teamsters to keep our union strong just as we depended on the Teamsters that came before us. Let us never forget that we stand on the shoulders of our predecessors and it is our duty to preserve and build upon their efforts.
Sisters and brothers,
As we face the challenges of 2018 and with the impending Supreme Court ruling on the Janus case that could turn public sector unions across the country into open shop, let us remember that labor history has never been a cakewalk. We inherited our worker protections and union wages from our predecessors who were tough as nails. They fought and won grueling fights for the rights we now enjoy.
At work, we don’t give a second thought to the fire alarm on the wall, yet it wasn’t placed there by employer’s good will. In 1910, The Industrial Ladies’ Garment Workers’ Union organized strikes involving over 20,000 workers against sweatshops in New York, yet companies like Triangle Shirtwaist Factory banned their workers from unionizing.
The next year, disaster struck. In an attempt to prevent theft, garment workers – almost all women of Italian and Jewish origins, were locked by their employer on the top floors of a New York building when a fire broke out. Flames quickly caught the textile scraps and set the building ablaze. The employers had trapped these working women to burn alive in a building not equipped with any fire safety. People in the streets watched their neighbors catch fire and jump to their death from the tenth floor. It took this horrific tragedy, public outcry, and pressure from the unions to implement safety rules in the workplace.
During the notorious Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire, sixty-two people jumped or fell from windows, not one of them survived. Image source Wikimedia Commons.
Sisters and Brothers -
On behalf of our union’s executive board, Michelle and I want to wish you and your family a wonderful holiday season.
This is a time of year to express togetherness and gratitude. As Teamsters, we have a lot to be thankful for. By standing together with our co-workers, we have a level of protection and job security not available to our non-union counterparts.
But our ability to negotiate is only one way our union helps improve lives. This November, members of Teamsters 117 donated dozens of pints of blood at our annual blood drive. Teamsters across our union are also donating toys for families in need this holiday season. These efforts help save lives, bring joy to families that are struggling, and lift up our communities.
We would like to express our utmost gratitude to the many Teamsters who will be at work, away from their families over the holidays. A special thanks go out to our members working in the corrections and law enforcement professions who make tremendous sacrifices this time of year as they serve and protect our communities and keep all of us safe.
As a reminder, our Holiday Membership Meeting and raffle celebration will be held on Thursday, December 21 starting at 7PM at the union hall in Tukwila. I hope you are able to join us for this special event. Thank you again for your outstanding service to our communities and for your membership in Teamsters 117.
President and Director of Corrections and Law Enforcement
Sisters and Brothers -
This September, the U.S. Supreme Court announced that it will consider a case, Janus v AFSCME that will likely have a profound impact on union members, especially those working in the public sector.
Janus is a case, supported by the so-called “Freedom” Foundation", which will almost certainly eliminate your freedom to negotiate union security clauses in the public sector.
If this occurs, members would be able to abandon their membership, but continue to receive all of the benefits of representation without having to pay for it. Unions would lose resources, contracts would become weaker, and the membership would become divided.
We don’t know exactly how the Court will rule on Janus, but there is a strong likelihood that your voice as a public sector union member could be significantly weakened as early as June of next year.
The Janus case is the culmination of decades of attacks on working families by wealthy CEOs and the politicians who do their bidding to rig the economy in their favor. They want to weaken unions because unions have played a central role in defending the freedoms we cherish to build and protect the middle class.
The best way for us as union members to prepare for this attack is to stand together with our co-workers and reaffirm our commitment to each other. We have a plan to win and be even stronger, with members leading the way.
Our union is incredibly resilient. We have faced many challenges in the past, and we’ve proven that when we stand together, we can improve our lives and our communities. We are confident we will prevail this time as well.
Thank you for your service to our community, and for your membership in Teamsters 117.
President and Director of Corrections & Law Enforcement
Brothers and Sisters -
At UNFI, we achieved a defined benefit pension protection for the first time, while at Republic the majority of members will see an incredible 25% wage increase over four years.
These two contract wins are especially noteworthy given our turbulent history with the companies. At UNFI, members went on strike in 2012 in an effort to raise standards to match other contracts in the grocery industry. At Republic, recycle and yard waste drivers have struggled for decades without success to achieve equitable wages and working conditions with the garbage haulers.
In both cases, it appeared that we were headed for a labor dispute if we wanted to achieve our goals. So what made the difference? What allowed us to translate two challenging contract campaigns into historic wins? The answer is members getting involved in their union.Read more
Brothers and Sisters,
The last week in April is recognized as Administrative Professionals Week. Although many of us work in challenging environments, I would like to take this opportunity to share my appreciation for all of our members working in professional administrative positions.
No workplace can be imagined without the existence of administrative workers. Speaking from experience, the administrative staff at your Local Union are the lifeline of our organization as they are the ones who ensure that our office runs like a family and the services that you rely on as a Local 117 member are accurate and timely.
Please take a moment to thank your co-workers, friends, and family members who work in these roles for their service, commitment, and contributions that too often go unrecognized.
Lastly, I would like to share a couple of quotes that speak to the appreciation we all should have for administrative professionals:
- "No one is more cherished in this world than someone who lightens the burden of another. Thank You." -Joseph Addison
- "The trouble with doing something right the first time is that nobody appreciates how difficult it was." -Unknown
Again, thank you for everything you do in the workplace and in our communities.
Local 117 Secretary-Treasurer John Scearcy at the Shop Steward Seminar on March 11.
Brothers and Sisters -
In January, I had the incredible honor of being sworn in as Secretary-Treasurer of Teamsters Local 117 to continue to serve the membership of our great Union for the next three years.
Running a Union of 17,000 members is a tremendous responsibility. As the leader of this Local Union, I know your livelihood and the welfare of your family is tied inextricably to your Union contract and to our ability to build unity and power in the workplace.
When I became Secretary-Treasurer in 2015, I made a commitment to build a strong foundation for the future and to always put members first. That commitment has not changed, and I intend to continue to work tirelessly on your behalf.
Now that the first quarter of my elected term is behind us, I want to share with you some of the highlights and accomplishments of our collective work.Read more
Local 117 Secretary-Treasurer John Scearcy and President and Director of Corrections & Law Enforcement Michelle Woodrow
Brothers and Sisters -
On February 14, more than 230 members of Teamsters 117 and their families converged on the State Capitol in Olympia for our DOC Lobby Day.
It was our biggest, most successful Lobby Day event ever. Local 117 members met with dozens of legislators to discuss issues that directly impact their lives.
Our Lobby Day event exemplifies the kind of Union we are working to build. It’s a Union where members are engaged, organized, informed, and politically active.
Over the last few months, we have been developing a strategic plan that will shape the future of our Union. More than 2,400 members filled out our membership survey to provide input into the plan.
"We have been developing a strategic plan that will shape the future of our Union."
The survey asked questions about our Union’s mission and purpose, how best to build unity, improve communication, and increase member involvement.
You can view the results of our membership survey here.
We’ve also held meetings of member leaders to critically analyze our Union. What are our strengths? Where do we need to improve? What do we need to prepare for? And what opportunities will we want to capitalize on in the future?
Based on your feedback from the surveys and at these meetings, we have established four strategic priorities that will guide our Union into the future. They are:
- Fortify our Union against attacks on workers;
- Build our power through new organizing;
- Invest in member leadership and development;
- Build our political power.
These are the issues that you identified as critically important to building unity and power for all working people and to help lift up our communities.
Over the next several weeks, we will be continuing to build our plan around these priorities. We have formed sub-committees to work on each priority, and we will be developing our plan at our upcoming Shop Steward Seminar on March 11.
Your ongoing input in the plan is important. If you are interested in working on a specific priority, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Thank you for everything that you do.
Happy New Year to you and your family. I hope you had a wonderful holiday season and time to reconnect with your family and friends.
As we look to 2017, working people across our country will be facing many challenges. As we approach these challenges, we must strengthen our collective resolve to stand together and confront attacks on our unity.
Make no mistake – our opponents attack us because we bargain strong contracts and defend the rights of working people. They attack us because we strengthen community by providing scholarships, building strong coalitions, supporting organizations that share our values, and providing financial assistance to members who have endured immeasurable hardship.Read more
Season’s greetings from my family to yours.
This is a time to gather with loved ones, look back on the year, and give thanks for all we have. But as we celebrate the holidays, let’s take a moment to recognize the brave public safety professionals who won’t have that luxury.
While most of us will be spending the holidays with our families, thousands of correctional employees, police officers, military personnel, and other first responders throughout our region will miss celebrations with their loved ones.Read more