Brothers and Sisters -
A year ago backers of the Janus court case were forecasting the end of unions. They tried to use the courts to take away our freedom to stand together for fair wages, affordable health care, and a secure retirement for ourselves and our families.
One year later, unions have emerged stronger than ever. More people across the country understand the value of standing together with their co-workers to improve their quality of life and build strong, vibrant communities.
"...members are sticking with the union in overwhelming numbers."
At Teamsters 117, members are sticking with the union in overwhelming numbers. As a result, we’ve raised wages, improved benefits, and strengthened contracts for thousands of public service workers over the last year. We’ve helped passed laws in Olympia that will enhance the rights of all members of Teamsters 117. This year we also hosted our first-ever Teamsters Womxn’s Conference that brought a powerful spirit of sisterhood to our union.Read more
Brothers and Sisters -
When members come together and get involved in their union, we can accomplish great things.
We’ve seen that recently at Teamsters 117 with a string of victories and inspiring examples of union solidarity.
For our members at the Department of Corrections and UW campus police, interest arbitration bills on their way to the Governor’s desk for his signature will immeasurably expand their rights in the workplace.
It’s a goal we’ve fought for nearly a decade poised to become a reality.
"When members come together and get involved in their union, we can accomplish great things."
At King County, we’ve also achieved a signature win. With historically high turnout, members at the County voted overwhelmingly to ratify a new Total Comp Agreement negotiated by a coalition of unions that will raise wages by a minimum of 7% over two years. The first wage increases will take effect this May with members receiving a retro check in June dating back to the beginning of the year.
This kind of union power is also fiercely present in our private sector shops.
Over the last few months, a group of mostly immigrant workers at Industrial Container Services has worn solidarity stickers, raised just practicing pickets outside of their workplace, and marched on the boss to deliver letters of community support.
Their goal? To end their employer’s bullying and win an equitable contract for themselves and their families. Their courageous actions should be an inspiration to us all.
All of this comes as our union prepares for an exciting event. On May 18, we will be holding our first-ever Womxn’s Conference for members of Teamsters 117 and their families. The conference will feature guest speakers, workshops, presentations, a fundraiser art-show, kid’s activities, and a delicious lunch.
This massive undertaking has been organized by a committee of member leaders. They’ve done the hard work of planning the agenda, inviting speakers, and recruiting attendees. The conference is open to all, and I strongly encourage you to attend. At this event we will unveil our newly-created scholarship - the Teamsters 117 Jayme Biendl Working Women’s Scholarship!
Members getting involved in our union can achieve amazing results. I encourage you to find ways to build unity and power in the workplace. All of us are stronger through your bold, creative actions.
Sisters and Brothers -
We owe a whole lot of gratitude to Teamsters across our Union who have been working round-the-clock during Snowmaggedon 2019 to keep our streets clear, our grocery shelves stocked, and our communities safe.
A special thanks to Local 117 members in public works departments across the North and South Sound who have been operating plows and salting the streets for the last week. Road conditions are bad enough now, but can you imagine the mess we'd be in without their tireless service?
Thanks, also, to our members in the grocery and food service industries who are putting in 16-hour shifts and holding up in roadside hotels to heft, house, and distribute food products to stores, nursing homes and hospitals across our region. They're busting their tails so that we can continue to eat.
"As Teamsters we've heeded the call of service and sacrifice..."
Teamster police and corrections employees are not granted days off during snow emergencies. Thanks to our Sisters and Brothers in public safety who are braving the roads and, as always, putting their lives on the line, to serve and protect us.
So many more Local 117 members have shown up for work this week despite the snow. As Teamsters, we've heeded the call of service and sacrifice so that families across Washington State can continue to safely navigate their neighborhoods, put food on their tables, and enjoy the madness Mother Nature has gifted us.
You are our hometown heroes - we appreciate you all so much.
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