Sisters and Brothers -
The murder of our brother George Floyd saddens us deeply as it marks yet another case of an unjust killing of an unarmed black man. Police are charged with the duty to protect and serve us all, and the police officer who murdered George Floyd together with the officers who stood idly by and allowed his murder to occur must be brought to justice.
Teamsters Local 117 is a large and diverse Union with members working and living in nearly every occupation and community across the state of Washington. The members we represent in Law Enforcement and Corrections have overwhelmingly expressed empathy for the family of George Floyd and disapproval of the actions and inactions of the officers involved.
As a union, we stand with our black and brown Sisters and Brothers and condemn these heinous acts. We need top to bottom reform in police departments across the country, but we cannot stop there. To work toward real and sustainable social justice, we must also reform our political structure, housing, transportation, health care, education, the criminal justice system, the workplace, unions, and all other corners of society that encourage, promote and foster race and income inequality.
Black and brown communities are tired, outraged, and taking to the streets in protest along with allies of every color. The anger and pain are real and the message for change cannot be diluted by the unfortunate acts of destruction of property that are taking place. I join with the family of George Floyd in calling for those committing these acts to stop. Together, we can acknowledge this pain and anger, peacefully protest, and organize around the common goal of eliminating the shroud of racism that still envelops our country and build a society that no longer restricts and endangers black and brown people.
This is a time of reckoning in America. I call on all of us at Teamsters 117 to ask what we can do to stop racism and treat all people regardless of race, color, gender, or sexual orientation with compassion and respect.
We are no stranger to fighting injustice - the power of our Union is not limited to our labor agreements. Now is the time for systemic change and to build a more just society for all.
Sisters and Brothers -
With the news of the Coronavirus COVID-19 spreading in Washington State, I wanted to make sure you are informed about the virus and let you know about steps we are taking at Teamsters 117 to help you and your family stay safe.
The Center of Disease Control (CDC) is an excellent source of up-to-date, reliable information that breaks down the basics of the virus, how it is spread, and how to protect yourself and your family. You can access this information on the CDC's website here.
To help protect yourself, the CDC is recommending that you:
- Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after going to the bathroom; before eating; and after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing.
- Avoid close contact with people who are sick. Close contact is considered within 6ft.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth.
- Stay home when you are sick.
- Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash. WASH and/or sanitize your hands after.
The CDC also offers guidelines for your employer to help ensure your safety at work. We have drafted a letter to all Teamster employers that references those guidelines and encourages employers to have an operational health and safety plan in place that addresses the virus and to communicate that plan directly to you and your co-workers.
In addition, the Washington State Employment Security Department has put together a list of benefits available to workers who are impacted by COVID-19 and an FAQ page for workers. If you have questions, please reach out to your Union Representative.
In an effort to ensure the safety of our members, we have also cancelled our annual Shop Steward Seminar and Appreciation Day. Both the DOC Seminar on Friday, March 6 and the main Seminar event at the Washington State Convention Center on Saturday, March 7 have been cancelled.
I know this is a worrisome time for all of us. At times like these, it is important that we remember to care for each other - our families, all of our Union Sisters and Brothers, and the members of our community.
Please stay healthy and safe.
Sisters and Brothers -
Hope your 2020 is getting off to a great start! As you plan out your new year, I wanted to give you a heads up about an exciting new scholarship opportunity for members of Teamsters 117.
At our Womxn's Conference last year, we established the Jayme Biendl Working Womxn's Scholarship. The new scholarship commemorates the life and legacy of Officer Jayme Biendl of the Monroe Correctional Complex who was killed in the line of duty in 2011.
The Jayme Biendl Working Womxn's Scholarship is intended for Teamster 117 women members and their dependents who are pursuing continuing education or a training/vocational program.
Learn about eligibility requirements for the scholarship here.
In addition, we have a number of other scholarship and community sponsorship opportunities available to Local 117 members. These include:
- Teamsters 117 Jeff Alfieri Scholarship
- Teamsters Retiree Club Scholarship
- Solidarity Scholarship (continuing education scholarship open to all members)
- Community Sponsorship (for Teamsters doing good work in the community)
- Hoffa Scholarship (supporting the education of Teamster children)
Thanks so much for your membership in Teamsters 117!
Sisters and Brothers -
On behalf of our Union’s Executive Board, I want to wish you and your family a wonderful holiday season.
As Teamsters, there is so much for us to be thankful for – workplace rights, guaranteed wage rates, and the many protections and benefits that come with having a union job.
As we give thanks, let’s also remember to express our gratitude to the many Teamsters who will be working over the holidays. While most families will be home celebrating together, many of you work in professions that never sleep.
"Our gratitude to the many Teamsters who will be working over the holidays."
For those of you who will be away from your loved ones, we are grateful to you for your dedication, service, and sacrifice. A special thanks goes out to our members 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 the decade comes to a close, we’ve made incredible strides at Teamsters 117. We’ve won stronger contracts and expanded the workplace rights of thousands of members across our union. We’ve fought back threats in the courts, and we’ve emerged stronger and more engaged.
Next year, we hope to grow our union through new organizing. We’ll also be developing a strategic plan that will help us build a stronger future together.
Thank you for your service to our communities. Happy holidays to you and your family.
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