Collage of Local 853 members

My final column 

By the end of January, I will no longer be Principal Officer of Local 853. These past 54 years as a Teamster, and 36 years serving as a Teamster official on the local, Joint Council, and International levels, have been an amazing ride. It has been the honor of my life to serve the growing roster of members of Local 853 and to do all in my power to improve your working conditions, wages, benefits, and lives.

When I started as Secretary-Treasurer in 1992, the Local had $100,000 in the bank, was renting a headquarters building, and had about 3,500 members, mostly in the East Bay.

Today, through organizing and through mergers, we’ve grown to about 15,000 members across the Bay Area down to Watsonville, with some members in the Valley and around Sacramento. We’ve got assets of over $12 million, including several buildings. 

But more than that, we have an amazing staff of 24 business representatives who oversee more than 300 contracts in a wide range of industries—from drivers of school, tech and paratransit buses to ready-mix and construction vehicles; from sales to driving and merchandising dairy, soft drinks, and liquor; from retail sales to package delivery to concessions at sports arenas; we manufacture food and commercial products, buses, and more. Our members are as diverse and interesting as our industries. I’m proud to say that in many industries, our contracts are the most lucrative in the nation.

On top of all that, our office staff is second to none. We’ve got a well-oiled machine that processes the contracts and membership rolls and keeps the myriad of administrative procedures humming.

One of my passions, over the years, has been to build, improve and strengthen our benefits programs, from health insurance to 401K plans to pensions. The Western Conference of Teamsters Pension Trust, which I chaired for many years, is now the largest and strongest union plan in the nation, with more than $58 billion in assets. 

This is not an easy time for the labor movement. The downward trend that started in the 1980s with deregulation has continued on steroids over the decades. Our ability to organize new members and keep the members we have has been hindered by labor laws that promote union-busting, replacement workers, and challenges that only the heartiest of union supporters could overcome.

And yet our members continue to step up, taking action when needed and fighting for their own rights and those of other working people. We’re now starting to take on perhaps our biggest challenge, which is the growth of Amazon—a giant that directly threatens our members at UPS, and will indirectly impact members who work in numerous other industries. I can’t predict the future, but I know that this will be a make-it or break-it fight for our union.

I thank our current staff and the dozens of people who have worked with us and worked for you over the last 30 years. You have made Local 853 the preeminent powerhouse that we’ve become—and will remain into the future.

I can’t say enough good things about current President Dennis Hart, who will be taking over as Secretary-Treasurer. He has been a fabulous partner and I have great confidence leaving the union in his able hands.

And I thank all of you—our members—for giving me your trust these many years and for enabling me to do what I’ve loved.

Author: Local 853

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