Local 117 shop stewards meet at our Shop Steward Seminar and Appreciation Day at the convention center in downtown Seattle.
In an impressive display of unity and strength, hundreds of rank-and-file leaders of our union assembled together at the Washington State Convention Center in downtown Seattle on Saturday.
Our annual Shop Steward Seminar and Appreciation Day brings all of our stewards across the state under one roof for training, discussion, and the opportunity to learn from each other.
"It's exciting," said John Scearcy, Local 117 Secretary-Treasurer. "Our stewards bring incredible talent, energy, and dedication to our union. When all of us gather together in one room, it's hard not to feel empowered."
This year's seminar focused on the challenges the labor movement faces today while recognizing the struggles and sacrifices of the past.
The event kicked off with three Local 117 members – Cheryl Miller, Eric Sachs, and Van Huynh – giving their accounts of how the union has brought more freedom to their lives. They had participated in last year's essay contest, which brought out a number of powerful union stories from Local 117 members.
Secretary-Treasurer Scearcy followed with his "state of the union" address, which reinforced our collective mission. "Our work as stewards - the work of this union - is to build power and unity, improve lives, and lift up our communities. Together we can accomplish those goals," he said.
"When all of us gather together in one room, it's hard not to feel empowered."
To fulfill that mission, Scearcy outlined the four pillars of our strategic plan: organizing, leadership development, political action, and fortifying our ranks. Many of our achievements over the last two years, he emphasized, have come because we have focused on those priorities.
"Since 2016, we've brought hundreds of new members into our union; we've launched a Teamsters Leadership Academy for member leaders; we've continued to build a powerhouse political program; and we've developed our Family-Strength-Community program to strengthen the union from within given the threat presented by the Janus court case."
Next up was Marie Duarte, our union's Associate General Counsel, who delivered an impassioned legal analysis of Janus and spurred stewards to engage in member-to-member education. Our Legislative Affairs Director, Brenda Wiest, talked about a series of legislative victories for labor this legislative session in Olympia.
In the breakouts sessions, we discussed the importance of welcoming new members into the union and how to use workplace culture to build unity.
The event wrapped up with lunch and a presentation by our in-house historian, Director of Organizing Leonard Smith. Smith walked us through the struggles and achievements of our predecessors in the labor movement from the advent of the Teamsters union, to the Triangle Fire in 1911, to the passage of the National Labor Relations Act in 1935 and beyond.
"I'm enjoying every bit of it," said Robin Robinson, a shop steward at King County. “Being in a union is important to me because our jobs need to be strong, our community needs to be strong. We need to have rights and protections as we build our careers."