Within less than a year on the job, Kendra Mitchell-Smith helped lead her co-workers to an impressive contract win.
Some Teamsters are rock solid. They exude confidence from the core. This is Kendra Mitchell-Smith. Such self-assurance you might expect from a more veteran Teamster, but Kendra is just 22 years old and has been a member for a little more than a year. Kendra is a new Shop Steward at Canteen Vending, where she orders, stocks, and trucks out product – candy, milk, chips – anything that can be stuffed into a vending machine. We met up with Kendra recently and talked about her job, her role in a groundbreaking contract win, and what makes this young Teamster tick.
What do you like to do outside of work?
I’m a big family person. I have five younger brothers. We like to hang out at my dad’s house. We play chess, shoot the bow and arrow, take our dogs to the park. We go to Lake Tapps, go swimming. There’s always a party going on!
What did you do before getting hired on at Canteen Vending?
I sold life insurance. I didn’t like my role in the company. They wanted me to convince older people to buy insurance they didn’t really need. It didn’t feel right.
Tell me about your job, what does a typical day look like?
I stock product - candy, soda, chips. I do food safety, date pastries, build carts, dump garbage. It’s a bunch of little things, but they add up and help keep the place together.
How do you like being a Teamster?
I really like it. This is my first union experience. I enjoy the job security. A lot of employers try to push you past your breaking point. As a Teamster, somebody always has your back.
Why did you sign up to become a Shop Steward?
I don’t like to see people get bullied. We're at work and we have the right to feel comfortable. When a manager tells us to do something that isn’t in our contract, I don’t put up with it. I tell them, “Come back when you want to talk to us like we’re people.”
Tell me about your experience during contract negotiations?
We didn’t make unreasonable requests. I got quite a few people to show up to the demands meeting - an extremely high turnout for us. We authorized a strike, planned a "just practicing" picket. When the company saw our posts about it on Twitter, they gave in to our demands.
I heard you were a firebrand at the meetings. What did you do to help motivate your co-workers?
I kept the conversation going every day, I offered to pick them up and bring them to the meetings. I said, “You can’t ask for more money, then not show up and fight for it.”
"As a 30-year Teamster, I'm inspired by Kendra. She is humble yet confident and understands that the power of this Union lives within the level of engagement of our membership and our commitment to each other. Proud to call her my sister." - John Scearcy, Secretary-Treasurer
Do you like this page?