Collage of Local 853 members

Giving thanks to the union

There’s an old saying in the union world: 10% of the members take up 90% of the time of business reps. It’s always the squeaky wheel who gets the attention and not often does the union hear from members about the good job their doing.

So, when Business Rep Stu Helfer opened his email and got a thank you letter from Steve Townsend, it put a big smile on his face. Here’s the note:

“I know you don’t hear it much but I just wanted to say thank you! Thank you for being so tenacious about establishing our 401k back in the 90s. That commitment changed the future for me and for many, many men and women who took advantage of this program. I can start collecting some of that money in about 11 months (if needed) and it will make my retirement a breeze! Thank you, Stu, for your representation during your time in office and even before you got there as a shop steward!”

Your intrepid Connections reporter decided to get Townsend’s back story to see what inspired this note. Here it is:

Townsend started his career as a mixer driver for Pacific Ready Mix and became a member of Teamsters Local 315 in the early 1980s. When that company got bought, work slowed down. In 1994, he moved to Berkeley Ready mix and became a member of Local 291, which later merged with Local 853. After taking a “train the trainer” course, he started teaching Basic Hazardous Materials classes at the College of Alameda and at large corporations, which he continued to do while working as a mixer driver. When Hanson bought Berkeley in 2011, all the drivers were let go. “There’s nothing like the feeling of knowing that all is not lost, that the Teamsters have your back, and you will have another good Union job as soon as possible.”

In August of 2012, he got on with Cemex. “I drove a mixer, ran the yard, learned to batch, and even taught Safe Driving classes to drivers and management. I was able to retire in June of 2017 with a full pension at only 53 years old, due again to the forethought of our Teamster officials in implementing the PEER 80 program!”

Townsend says he’s been blessed by being a Union man throughout his life and the benefits just keep coming. “I have a monthly pension, lifetime medical (again, due to the forward-thinking of our union officials), and a fat 401k account.”

Thanks, Steve. Stu and the rest of us appreciated getting your thanks and your story. Continue to enjoy your retirement!

Author: Local 853

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