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All in the Family

Shelley Goodman has witnessed a lot of hardship in her 21 years as a Durham School Services school bus driver and Teamster organizer.

While organizing in Jacksonville, Fla., Goodman met a nonunion school bus monitor who sold her blood to make ends meet. At an election in Minnesota, one of the workers who had terminal cancer came to cast his vote in the Teamster election for a better future for his coworkers.

“I’ve witnessed all these battles,” Goodman told the audience of 1,000 Teamsters at the 2013 Teamsters Women’s Conference. “But there are two women who I would like to recognize today. They encouraged me to be an activist. They are my two daughters.”

Courtney Goodman-Bell is a business agent with Local 777 in Chicago and Kacie Goodman-Romero is a special education teacher in Louisiana and a chief shop steward working to organize and mobilize her coworkers. 

“Mom would go to her shop steward meetings and bring us along when we were little. I remember workers coming to our house to talk to Mom, the fighter,” Romero said.

“Being in a union is engrained in us. Our father was a union ironworker. When I was eight years old, Mom organized at her bus terminal. For us, it was common conversation at the dinner table,” Bell said.

Romero is learning from her mother and sister about empowering workers to stand up for their rights.

“I’m glad to be at the Teamsters Women’s Conference because having moved from Illinois to Louisiana, a right-to-work state, I have a lot to learn about organizing and unions. I want to empower myself to help others,” Romero said.

Romero is one of five union members among a work force of 80. The teachers and staff have a growing interest in organizing, but also a fear of retribution from their employer.

Bell is the youngest daughter, but advises her sister on how to organize in her workplace.

“I’m a business agent and I represent school bus drivers, and I can explain to them, I rode a bus, too, with my Mom. I know the gratification and challenges of being a bus driver,” Bell said.

The two sisters have the same fire as their mother to empower workers to better their working conditions and their lives.

Of her daughters, Goodman said, “I am extremely proud,” as she called on the audience of Teamsters to continue their fight and pass it on to the next generation.