Never forget the value of that first union contract

Secretary-Treasurer's Report Autumn 2007

I am basking in the good feeling that the drivers at Reliable Trucking finally have a contract. That's what unions are all about.

These hard working truck drivers have worked under conditions that our members would never dream of putting up with. Working long hours for little pay or no pay, paying huge amounts of a small paycheck for health care for their families, having no pension or no way to deal with injustices, except to quit -- all of the classic symptoms of working without a union, except in this case, sometimes worse.

With our help, the Reliable drivers decided to fight for something better for themselves and their families. The fight was long and difficult. Along the way, several drivers were fired or quit when they couldn't stand it anymore. But in the end, the majority stood tough and won their battle for rights on the job, and most importantly, for dignity in their workplace.

This group of drivers took the first step toward gaining what most of us have enjoyed for years, but this first step is the most important -- it's a first contract!

Teamwork is what makes the difference between winning and losing these types of campaigns, and the drivers could not have achieved their victory without the hard work of the Local 853 staff and many of our current members. Stu Helfer did an outstanding job on this campaign, along with organizers Jesse Casqueiro and Ormar Locklear, and Phil Tarantino and Bo Morgan from our Construction Division.

Making lives better for working people is what we are all about. All Local 853 members should be proud. I certainly am!

Mentoring for the Future

Often, our members take for granted the wage and benefit packages, days off, seniority and grievance procedures that come with their union contract. It's easy to forget that some group of workers, way back when, fought to organize for a union contract -- for your union contract.

That's why, when we brought together our shop stewards for their annual seminar, we focused on mentoring new members. We coached stewards on how to welcome new members and teach them the basics about how the union works.

Certainly, it is important that our stewards mentor new members, but it is equally important that all of our members pitch in, as well. We need to make sure new Teamsters realize that the union is the only thing that stands between them and the loss of rights, protections, and dignity on the job.

Many new members think everything they walk into -- health care, pension, good wages, holidays, vacations -- are "given" to them by the employer. All of us need to make sure that our new members know that the union makes these things happen because mentoring new members makes the union secure and stronger.

We also talked to our stewards extensively about DRIVE, the Teamsters' political action fund. Elected officials, on both the state and federal level, have a major impact on our work lives. We -- as workers and as union members -- have been attacked for the last seven years during the Bush administration; this has to change if we are to survive.

We all need to realize the importance of the union's political participation. Your stewards and business representatives will be talking to you about signing up for DRIVE.

Pension Accrual Rate Goes Up

I am happy to announce that the accrual rate for the Western Conference of Teamsters Pension Trust Fund will be raised to 2.0 for members who have up to 20 years of service, and to 2.65 for those with 20 or more years of service, effective January 2008.

This plan -- the largest Union pension fund in the country -- is fully funded and in good shape. By making good decisions and making sure our investments are allocated in a fashion that grows our funds, our plan has recuperated from the hits it, and all plans, took in the stock market in the years 2000-2003.

With our strong pension plans and our SIP 401(k) plan, we are working to ensure your ability to retire with a secure income, and to enjoy the fruits of your labor.

Rome Aloise, Secretary-Treasurer of Local 853

Rome Aloise,

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