Sunday, May 10, 2015

At Unity, Teamsters look ahead to a bright future

Building Teamster Power at Unity Conference.
Some 1,600 Teamster brothers and sisters from across North America gathered together today as part of the 12th annual Unity Conference to share their success stories and speak truth to power about the increasingly perilous state of workers across the continent.

Rank-and-file union members joined with Teamsters General President Jim Hoffa as well as other Teamster leaders to let attendees know they all have a role in ensuring that Teamster Power will not flourish if they don't continue to contribute and speak out.
Teamsters General President Jim Hoffa
Hoffa said there are political forces that are trying to hamper the power of the Teamsters and the labor movement, both in Congress and in state capitals across the country. But he said the union won't sit quietly by and let that happen:
These people are crazy. They want to roll the clock back to 1890. We need to make sure we stand together. They are not going to get rid of us.
One of those fights is against fast track trade authority, which would allow lousy trade deals like the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) to move forward. Hoffa said the government shouldn't sacrifice good U.S. jobs for even bigger corporate profits:
We are not sending any more jobs out of America. Leave the damn jobs at home!
Hoffa greeted new Teamsters likes the 13,500 San Bernardino County, Calif. public workers who joined the union earlier this year. And he also gave a shout out to more than 11,000 Clark County, Nev. school district employees who won a battle against the state that nearly ensures those same workers will be joining the Teamsters after a planned union election this fall.

Elena Rodriguez, a clerical worker at the school district, said she and her fellow workers will be empowered once they can join the union:
With the Teamsters, we will have real power. This time next year, we will be your brother and sisters.
Teamsters General Secretary-Treasurer Ken Hall
Secretary-Treasurer Ken Hall said the union is in excellent financial shape, which will enable it to seek out organizing opportunities and flex its muscle when necessary to get better contracts for its members:

We have the money and the resources to take on the fights. That's what we're supposed to be doing.

That said, it was clear there have been plenty of victories for the Teamsters in the past year. Whether it was Facebook contract bus drivers, workers at several hubs of Fed Ex Freight and Con-way, port truck drivers in Los Angeles and Long Beach or Selland car haul workers, the victories kept coming.

For many, the union plays an important role in their life. A waste worker at Universal Waste in Los Angeles who recently joined Local 396 talked about how his life has improved for himself and his family since becoming a member.

Meanwhile, Ricardo Ceja Morones, a driver with new drayage trucking firm Eco Flow Transportation that will hire all its Southern California drivers as employees, said he is already winning by having a more stable job:
The Teamster have taught us how to fight our fights. With the support of the Teamsters, we will earn a good  wage, good benefits, and respect on the job.
Clark County worker Elena Rodriguez
But there are still more battles to be won. A worker at salad processing giant Taylor Farms in California's Central Valley talked about the company's ongoing illegal attacks on their right to organize. And there are other such challenges that must be defeated.

Beyond all the important talk of organizing and politics, the Unity Conference also provides an opportunity for leaders and members to get back in touch with what it means to be a Teamster. Preach Haynes, a trustee for Local 41 in Kansas City, said:
When you talk about Unity, it means you've got come out of your comfort zone and be willing to help under any circumstances and lend your ear to your members because their concerns are your concerns.