By Rome Aloise —
We have put together a special edition of the Local 853 Connections to make sure you are getting information from your union that, given the current circumstances, is as helpful and timely as it can be.
We are experiencing unprecedented and historic times. None of us have seen anything like this and hopefully, we won’t have to experience it again. The threat of COVID-19 is something that many of us didn’t really take seriously at first. As the virus spreads, and our political leaders started to acknowledge its seriousness, our world, as we know it, has experienced incredible changes.
Many of our members are working long hours making sure essential items are in place for the general public and for medical facilities. Our sisters and brothers are, in some cases, putting themselves in harm’s way to make sure they are providing the service that they were hired to do, and stepping up in these uncertain times. Many have worked so many hours that when they are off of work, and trying to get the necessities for themselves and their families, everything is gone. They are truly heroes.
In fact, Governor Newsom acknowledged the Teamsters Union and our members for doing extraordinary work. We have been successful in getting many of the companies that are still open and deemed “essential” to give some type of hazard pay or bonuses while our members are faced with these extraordinary demands.
On the other end, we also have many members who have been laid off, as their companies have been forced to shut down either by the government edict, or because their industries have been adversely affected by the “stay in place” orders from the state or local government. This, of course, is devastating for our members and their families.
We have been working with each company to figure out ways to keep checks coming into our members’ households. We have been able to push numerous employers to continue compensation for a limited amount of time; others have agreed to allow the use of sick leave, vacation, or other PTOs to supplement unemployment benefits. Of course, some are, as of yet, unwilling to do anything.
It is amazing that some of our employers have acted so responsibly and others seem to be oblivious to what is happening and how it affects their workers. We intend to keep pounding away at the employers who are not cooperating and work with those who are.
Ironically, this has been an incredibly busy time for your union.
Our offices are not taking walk-ins at this point, however we do have a skeleton crew of our office staff coming in on a rotating basis to make sure we are processing calls and dues, so that the life insurance attached to dues is in place, and handling all other business. Business agents will be checking their voicemail and answering calls, and will also be visiting the essential companies where our members are working.
Here are some answers to frequently- asked questions:
• Even with the horrendous drops and dives of the stock market, the Western Conference of Teamsters Pension Trust Fund is in good shape and at no risk.
• If your health benefits are provided by either Teamsters Benefit Trust or Teamsters Managed Trust, we are working with these trust funds to make sure all benefits are in place and that, in the event this situation lasts for a long time, benefits may be continued.
• If you are in the SIP 401(k) plan, your investments have probably plummeted due to this uncertain stock market. I cannot give you investment advice, but I can tell you what I have done: I don’t look at mine. Selling off when the market is down is bad, as it makes it difficult to reclaim what has been lost. I am just going to let it ride and hope that once things straighten out, the market will come back as it has before.
Please be safe, take care of your families, and know that by sticking together, assisting each other, and following the rules, we will all get through this. This is what Teamsters do!