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.
Teamsters at ICS have participated in multiple solidarity actions over the last few months to force the company to treat them fairly.
Community support has been overwhelming for Teamsters at Industrial Container Services (ICS) who are fighting for a fair contract.
Today Javier Cruz, a representative of OneAmerica, delivered a letter supporting the workers to company management. OneAmerica is the largest immigrant advocacy organization in Washington State.
The photo below shows Cruz flanked by ICS workers as he prepares to deliver the letter:
The OneAmerica letter calls on ICS to restore the previous level of health benefits for ICS workers, cease any labor violations, and immediately resolve its differences with members of Teamsters 117.
"We're supporting workers here because they are immigrants and deserve good wages and the right to negotiate with the company," Cruz said.
"We want better benefits, affordable health insurance for our families, and decent wages so we can survive and pay the rent," said Pedro Ruelas, a four-year employee at the company.
"These workers have shown time and time again that they will fight to protect their livelihoods, but their patience is wearing thin," said John Scearcy, Secretary-Treasurer of Teamsters Local 117. "Now it's up to ICS to show them the respect they deserve or suffer the consequences of a drawn-out labor dispute."
Our union's bargaining committee will be back in mediation with ICS on May 23 and 24.
Teamsters Rod Boettger (r) and Todd Reis (l) meet with Union Representative Cara Mattson to discuss a looming labor dispute at Veritiv.
With a labor dispute looming at Veritiv, 38-year Teamster Roderick Boettger recalls a two-day strike at the company decades ago.
It was a debacle not unlike the current one, with the company dragging its feet in negotiations and clinging to substandard proposals. “They weren’t giving us what we wanted, so we went on strike,” Boettger said.
The strike was short-lived, but the impact on the company was profound. Boetteger remembers the chaos in the shop when his crew returned to work.
“The warehouse was really messed up,” he said. “Forklifts were stuck in the air and stuff was scattered all over the place. It was complete disorder.”
Evidently, the company has not learned its lesson. This time around, they've slow-walked negotiations for eight months and appear to be trying to provoke a strike yet again.
Todd Reis, a Shop Steward on our union’s negotiations committee, called out Veritiv for its hypocrisy. “They tell us how much they care, but then turn around and try to take everything away that we’ve worked hard to keep,” he said.
Reis, Boettger and their co-workers are fed up. The group of warehouse workers and drivers represented by Teamsters 117 and 174 respectively voted unanimously to authorize a strike back in December.
Earlier this month, our two Locals issued a 10-day notice that we would be terminating our contracts with the company.
"We’ll get an idea of how seriously they’re going to take us soon."
Shop Steward Robert Morrison, also on our union’s negotiations team, says the group is disgusted. “We’re ready to go right now. We’ll get an idea of how seriously they’re going to take us soon.”
John Scearcy, Local 117 Secretary-Treasurer, reiterated this point. “Our members are amped up and ready to strike,” he said. “Veritiv needs to return to negotiations and bargain a fair contract in good faith that respects our members and their families.”
The next negotiations session on April 30 will be telling: Will Veritiv come with reasonable proposals or will they continue to balk at decent treatment of their employees? If it's the latter, they'd better be ready for a fight.
Faith-based and community leaders join with workers at ICS who are struggling for justice and respect.
Community pressure on Industrial Container Services (ICS) continues to intensify.
An interfaith delegation of religious leaders and representatives from community groups joined with workers to deliver a letter yesterday calling on the company to respect the rights of ICS employees and bargain a contract in good faith.
Members of the delegation took turns offering prayer and a message of solidarity with the workers as the group waited in the ICS lobby for management to receive the delegation and "open the doors of justice."
"I wanted to be here with my voice and my presence today to stand behind these workers and their courage because what they need and what they want for their families is important," said Tana Powell of the Valley and Mountain United Methodist Church.
"Our community is standing in unity with Teamsters at ICS."
Workers at ICS have been struggling over the last several months for a contract that honors their work and respects their right to a clean, healthy working environment.
During negotiations, ICS unilaterally changed its employees' health care plan and allegedly engaged in unlawful surveillance of workers during a peaceful protest on February 22.
On March 7, Seattle City Councilmember Lorena Gonzalez met with workers and delivered a letter to ICS management urging the company to negotiate a living wage, affordable health care, and retirement security for members of Teamsters 117.
"Our community is standing in unity with Teamsters at ICS," said John Scearcy, Secretary-Treasurer of Teamsters 117. "This company needs to understand that we are stronger when all workers can afford to put food on the table for their families, take their kids to the doctor, and not have to worry about exposure to toxic chemicals in the workplace."
Seattle City Councilmember Lorena Gonzalez joins Teamsters 117 members at ICS to fight for a safe, healthy workplace.
Seattle City Councilmember Lorena Gonzalez led a delegation of our members yesterday to confront management at Industrial Container Services (ICS) over alleged violations of federal law and proposals to slash health care.
Councilmember Gonzalez delivered a letter to the company calling on ICS to return to the bargaining table and negotiate a fair contract in good faith that includes "a living wage, affordable health care, and retirement security" for the Local 117 members.
"I am the daughter of immigrants - my parents are from Michoacan, Mexico," Councilmember Gonzalez said as she addressed the mostly immigrant workers after the action.
"I grew up as a migrant farmworker in central Washington State. I understand what it's like to work in a dirty environment where we don't have all of the rights we deserve and to worry about our safety and health. I'm here to support you and your ability to fight for a fair contract and to ensure that you have a safe workplace."
"Thank you to Councilmember Gonzalez for standing together with our members at ICS," said John Scearcy, Secretary-Treasurer of Teamsters 117. "The community will not tolerate an employer that compromises the health and safety of its workforce and pushes its employees to the brink of a labor dispute. We will continue to fight for fairness, equity, and safety until our members at ICS are treated with respect."
Teamsters at ICS are sick of company bullying. They're united and ready to take strike action to defend their livelihoods.
The message was loud and clear, scrawled on the dust masks our members at Industrial Container Services (ICS) wore today as they sanitized and refurbished steel barrels for reuse: Don't make me sick, ICS.
The company wants its Teamster employees to take a major hit on their health and welfare coverage with significant increases to their out-of-pocket medical expenses. In negotiations, ICS is trying to impose an inferior medical plan and they are providing little notice about enrollment.
Members are sick of the company's bullying tactics. Before this morning's safety meeting, the workers gathered in the breakroom, put on the masks and attached stickers to their hardhats that read, "Ready to strike!"
Last Friday, the group voted unanimously to authorize a strike and is prepared to disrupt production unless the company changes its approach at the bargaining table.
"ICS needs to do the right thing and return to negotiations prepared to bargain in good faith," said John Scearcy, Secretary-Treasurer of Teamsters 117. "This is difficult, dangerous work where our members are exposed to toxic fumes and the risk of injury is high. The last thing this company should be doing is degrading our members' health care coverage."
UPDATE - FEB. 22, 2019:
On Wednesday, our members at ICS raised Just Practicing pickets in front of the company during their lunch break. Check out a few photos from the action below:
Power, unity and resolve: Teamsters at ICS gather outside our Union Hall after a unanimous strike vote.
Teamsters at Industrial Container Services (ICS) are not backing down. After months of being bullied by their employer in contract negotiations, the group is fighting back. Today after an update from their union committee on the company’s substandard proposals, members voted unanimously to authorize a strike.
With the vote, the group sends an unequivocal message to their employer that they are united and won’t be jerked around. “All of us are united in demanding that they negotiate fairly,” said Abel Flores, a nine-year employee at the company. “We need them to respect our rights, and we need to see improvements in their proposals.”
ICS has refused to engage in meaningful negotiations and made unilateral changes to working conditions, laying the groundwork for a possible ULP strike.
What's more, ICS wants members to take a major step backwards on their health and welfare coverage while at the same time they want to hitch members' wages to the minimum required under the law. They’ve even tried to divert previously agreed to retirement contributions from the existing contract into their new wage proposals.
The group is not having any of it. “It’s not fair that they’re treating us like this, under these conditions,” said Iduviges Castro Sanchez, an eight-year employee. “If they won’t come to a fair agreement with our Union, we’re ready to strike.”
"If they won’t come to a fair agreement with our Union, we’re ready to strike."
Teamsters at ICS are no stranger to a fight. In 2014, they showed tremendous courage in standing up to their employer to get organized.
Before joining Teamsters 117, the workers’ only water source was a rusty pipe. Their break room was a filthy wreck of battered lockers, and they had no sanitary place to wash their hands. These abhorrent conditions were worsened by a workplace rife with toxic chemicals workers are exposed to as they sanitize and refurbish barrels containing industrial waste.
With a Union, workers had a voice over their wages and working conditions. Joining Teamsters also led to extraordinary changes including a new break room, new lockers, and a new, clean water dispensary. Now the company is provoking the workers once again, and like before, the workers are prepared to stand up and fight.
Teamsters at Humane Society of Tacoma & Pierce County Say No to Inhumane Treatment: Vote Unanimously to Authorize Strike
There was no hesitation from any of the predominantly female Teamsters who care for animals at the Humane Society when a strike authorization vote was taken. Never in all her 18 years of being a Teamster has Sarah Anderson – Cat Foster Coordinator, shop steward, and member of the bargaining committee – seen a proposal from an employer that has been so extreme with takeaways.
“We take care of animals that are forgotten and neglected, and work everyday to ensure needy animals find new homes,” she shares. “The hard work and overwhelming commitment of my co-workers is inspiring.”
“That’s why it’s so hard to understand why the new management team is working so hard to attack our pay and benefits after years of productive bargaining with Teamsters,” said Anderson. “It feels like we are fighting for basic human rights at this point,” she shares. “They are aggressively trying to break us down.”Read more
Teamster taxi and flat-rate drivers gather on the roof of the Sea-Tac Airport parking garage before Tuesday's protest.
More than 200 taxi and flat-rate drivers raised signs of protest at Sea-Tac Airport on Tuesday in a massive effort to stop airport taxi contractor Eastside for Hire from forcing drivers to pay to work. Drivers chanted “stop the pay-to-work scam” and “Eastside unfair” as they marched for nearly an hour at the taxi dispatch line on the third floor of the airport parking garage.
Last Thursday, Eastside sent drivers a notice informing them that they had until 5 P.M. on Tuesday to sign an intent to pay $9,000 or forfeit their right to access the airport. The drivers of 405 taxicabs and flat-rate vehicles in the airport fleet rely on fares from the airport as their primary source of income. Losing the right to access the airport would result in a devastating loss of business for drivers.
“Nobody has the money to pay that sum,” said taxi driver Saranjeet Shaglani. “It’s very expensive to work here. We can hardly pay the bills. So we all gathered together to get justice.”
"We all gathered together to get justice."
Drivers have already paid thousands of dollars for the right to service customers at the airport. When the Port of Seattle awarded Eastside the taxi contract in 2016, drivers paid Eastside a minimum of $4,600 per driver to join the fleet.
Drivers also paid to convert their vehicles with Eastside’s branding. In addition to the cost of entry, airport drivers are charged a $155 weekly dispatch fee and a $6 per trip fee. Drivers say the fees at the airport are so high that many earn less than minimum wage after expenses.Read more
Teamster warehouse workers, operators, and drivers at Northwest Steel and Pipe voted unanimously to strike last night. The strike vote took place Tuesday evening outside the company’s facility in Tacoma.
“Northwest Steel and Pipe is pushing its workers to the brink of a strike by its repeated, unlawful actions,” said Tracey A. Thompson, Secretary-Treasurer of Teamsters Local 117. “Through regressive tactics and failure to bargain, the company is threatening to destroy workers’ livelihoods, eliminate their retirement security, and significantly degrade health care coverage for their families.”Read more