More than a thousand Teamsters gathered in Boston Thursday to kick off the 2015 Teamsters Women’s Conference. The annual event, now in its 15th year, welcomed Teamsters from throughout North America for an exciting three days of solidarity and strength. View photos from Day 1 of the conference here.
“This conference gets bigger and better every year. This is about coming together, seeing each other and sisterhood,” said Jim Hoffa, Teamsters General President. “We’re successful because we are a big, strong union and we’re fighting for workers every day—that’s what you do.”
Becky Strzechowski, Director of the Teamsters Women’s Conference, welcomed the crowd of Teamsters to the annual event and Boston.
“There is always something new to learn at this conference every year. They’re never the same. We always learn, and gain guidance and wisdom from our fellow Teamsters,” Strzechowski said. “Over three days we are going to have fantastic speakers, dynamic workshops and union-building opportunities to share ideas, grow and learn.”
This year’s conference is hosted by New England Teamsters, with special thanks to the Joint Council 10 and Teamsters Local 25 Women’s Committees.
On stage, Strzechowski presented a plaque to Joint Council 10 Secretary-Treasurer Dave Laughton, International Vice President and Local 122 Secretary-Treasurer John Murphy, and International Vice President and Local 25 President Sean O’Brien for hosting the conference in Boston.
Boston Strong, Teamster Strong
The spirit of Boston was incorporated into the theme of this year’s conference, “Boston Strong, Teamster Strong,” and each speaker exhibited the resiliency and determination for which the city is known.
International Vice President Ferline Buie delivered the invocation, and said that it is “proud Teamster women and men who come together that will do the work to move us forward in the labor movement.”
The audience gave a rousing applause for Ayanna Pressley, Boston City Councilor At-Large, and the first woman of color to be elected to the council in its 105-year history. Pressley gave an emotional speech about overcoming a difficult and abusive childhood to succeed in life.
“Teamster women, your courage, bravery, hard work and dedication inspire me, and not just another wave of leaders, but our girls. In order for our girls to be it, they must see it,” Pressley said. “I came to celebrate and uplift, and let you know I see you, I know who you are—you are leaders, change agents, powerful Teamster women and you are my sisters.”
Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) addressed the Teamsters through a special video message, praising their strength.
“You should be proud of what you’ve achieved. This conference is a terrific opportunity to learn new skills to grow and strengthen the labor movement when you return home. This is powerfully important because now more than ever, the U.S. needs a strong labor movement,” Warren said.
The Teamsters also took time to remember sisters who have passed on this year, including Clara Day and Barbara Liddy.
Ron Herrera, International Vice President and Secretary-Treasurer of Local 396 in Covina, Calif., gave a special tribute to Barbara Liddy, a Teamster who was deeply involved in her union and her community. Among her countless roles, Liddy was Recording-Secretary and Political Coordinator for the Local 396 and had previously spoken at the Teamsters Women’s Conference.
“She was a great example of a strong, outspoken woman in the Teamsters. She had courage beyond belief and fear never stopped her,” Herrera said.
In honor of Liddy, the annual Teamster activist award was named “The Barbara Liddy Teamster Woman Activist Award.” This year’s recipient is Local 25 member Leslie Russell.
Russell is a nine-year member of Local 25 and a social worker. She counsels Teamsters with stress and sleep issues, mental health issues, addiction, health and wellness and other concerns.
“I work with the belief that no one should suffer in silence, and this conference rejuvenates me to do the best that I can,” Russell said upon receiving the award.
“At this conference I’ve met women with the stamina to drive forklifts in freezers. I’ve learned of the fearlessness of UPS sisters; the bravery of a woman who drives a truck and battles breast cancer,” Russell said. “You inspire me. Ask who inspires you and why and how you can make a difference.”
The 2015 Teamsters Women’s Conference continues Friday and Saturday with an address from Teamsters General Secretary-Treasurer Ken Hall, as well as conversations with many Teamster members, and workers organizing with the Teamsters. The day’s events will also include dozens of educational workshops.
Follow up-to-the-minute coverage of the 2015 Teamsters Women’s Conference on Twitter and Instagram @Teamsters, #teamsterwomen, and on Facebook at www.facebook.com/teamsters.