Day 2 – Teamsters General President Hoffa Addresses Women’s Conference

Teamsters General President Jim Hoffa addressed the hundreds of Teamster women gathered in New York City Saturday for the second day of the 2011 Teamsters Women’s Conference. As New York braces for the impact of Hurricane Irene, Hoffa called on Teamster women to stand up to another powerful force—anti-worker politicians and their corporate funders who are waging war on workers. View more photos from the event.

“Teamsters know how to fight, how to organize and how to win. We’re facing a war on workers, but Teamster women are going to take back America for the middle class. I’m calling on each and every one of you to get involved,” Hoffa said.

Rep. Yvette Clarke (D-NY, 11) commended the Teamster women on the important role they play in standing up for workers’ rights.

“I recognize now more than ever the importance and necessity of unions in today’s political discourse. You are the women who move a nation. You are the now and the future of organized labor,” Clarke said. .

While Teamster women work under gender-blind contracts, many women still struggle for equality in non-union workplaces.

“When a working woman is able to do her job and receive appropriate compensation, it’s not just the woman that’s empowered, it’s the family that does well,” said Thomas DiNapoli, New York State Comptroller. “It is in the interest of working men that working women are treated with dignity and respect.”

Organizing for Power

Equality in the workplace is achieved through organizing for power.

“We’re building a movement, empowering workers and lifting up the middle class,” said Jeff Farmer, Director of the International Union Organizing Department.

Farmer presented an update on current Teamster organizing campaigns, including the campaign to bring Teamster representation to the nearly 20,000 correctional, probation and parole officers with the Florida Department of Corrections (FDOC). The FDOC is the third largest prison system in the country.

Penny Reeder, a correctional officer, and Kimberly Schultz, a probation and parole officer, were warmly welcomed to the podium by the Teamster audience.

“I work hard every day and put my life on the line. We need real representation. We’re waiting now on our vote date so we can be Teamsters,” Reeder said.

“I’ve been working for the FDOC for 16 years and have seen everything taken from us without even a fight from our association. When we had the chance to join the Teamsters, I immediately called. We need the Teamsters,” Schultz said.

Cindy Garlinghouse, Vice President of Local 445 in New York, told the crowd about the recently ratified Teamsters’ national agreement at First Student, the nation’s largest school bus services provider. This historic agreement is driving up standards for tens of thousands of school bus workers.

Teamsters are now working to organize school bus workers at Durham School Services, the second largest school bus provider.

Cheryl Orzech, a Durham School Services driver, spoke about being terminated from the company as she actively worked to form a union with the Teamsters at her location.

“I will not go away. I will continue to fight wherever workers’ rights are being violated,” Orzech said.

For her work as a dedicated member organizer and activist, the annual Teamsters Women’s Conference Achievement Award was presented to Lori Polesel, a member of Local 445 and a driver at First Student.

“This one’s for the workers,” Polesel said.

The 2011 Teamsters Women’s Conference will continue Sunday.