The 2015 Teamsters Women’s Conference took place in Boston Friday, the second day of the annual event. Teamsters General Secretary-Treasurer Ken Hall addressed more than one thousand Teamster women who have gathered for three days of education, inspiration and sisterhood. View photos from Day 2 of the event here.
“Teamster women are dedicated members and leaders. You’re motivated and you know how to get things done. You play such an incredibly important role,” Hall said, noting that Teamster women were critical in the fight to protect working people and preserve the middle class. “Teamster women led fights at Taylor Farms, at school bus companies and as public employees—everywhere there’s a fight, Teamster women will be a part of that fight, and we thank you for it.”
Maura Healey, Massachusetts’ newly elected Attorney General also praised and acknowledged the union and its female members.
“The Teamsters is a union that looks after its members and their families, and you are a family. I know you need partners in government and at all levels, and you have a partner in me,” Healey said. “This is a union that celebrates and empowers women.”
Healey noted that her state is fighting hard for pay equity—equal pay for equal work and to ensure that the disempowered and marginalized in communities are provided a voice.
“Our country, our families are stronger when workers can organize,” Healey said. “I’m honored to be here with my Teamster friends to celebrate strong women and the work you do.”
“Teamster women are the best organizers I know,” said Becky Strzechowski, Director of the Teamsters Women’s Conference before introducing a panel on organizing, which provided conference participants with the latest on Teamster organizing successes, as well as current efforts to organize.
Jeff Farmer, Director of the Teamsters Organizing Department, noted that more than 30,000 workers had organized since the last Women’s Conference was held in Chicago, and thousands of workers with the Clark County School District in Nevada, at the ports, casinos, the waste industry, and countless other industries are organizing.
“With the injustices we see in the workplace, we can’t afford to sit on the sidelines. We all have to engage and we all have to organize—we are all Teamster organizers,” said Kim Keller, Deputy Director of the Teamsters Organizing Department.
While only one in nine women in the U.S. has union representation, a recent Institute for Women’s Policy Research report confirmed what is well-regarded knowledge that women in unions fare better, receiving better pay, and greater access to employer-provided health insurance, paid sick leave and retirement, among other gains.
The theme of this year’s conference is, “Boston Strong, Teamster strong,” and conference attendees were delighted to gain some inspiration from speakers who had not only survived, but thrived, through adversity.
International Vice President Sean O’Brien introduced on stage 9-year-old Liam Gallagher, a boy who was born with Down Syndrome and for five years battled leukemia. His grandfather was a Local 25 member.
“He’s an honorary Teamster,” O’Brien said. “And he is my inspiration because he battled like a warrior—always smiling, always persevering.”
O’Brien talked about how Boston persevered through the tragedy of the Boston Marathon bombing. Upon hearing that a hate group was going to protest the funerals for the bombing victims, O’Brien and Local 25 put out the call, and 1,000 Teamsters showed up to link arm in arm and form a human shield to protect the victims and mourners.
O’Brien then introduced Heather Abbott, a woman who lost a leg in the bombing. Abbott told her inspirational story of survival and how she navigated the aftermath of the bombing, including the physical and emotional toll that it took. Abbott has started a foundation to help provide prosthetic limbs to those in need, since the costs can be exorbitant.
“I have used the bombings as a platform to help others,” Abott said.
The 2015 Teamsters Women’s Conference continues in Boston Saturday with the day’s general session and dozens of workshops.
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