A Banner Year in Organizing


More than 35,000 workers across North America took the bold step to become Teamsters in 2015, paving the way for a more secure future for themselves and for their families.

From Clark County School District workers (a unit of 11,700) to San Bernardino County, California employees (13,500), and from Flexjet and Flight Options pilots (670) to one of the many smaller groups, Airgas USA in Charleston, W.Va. (21), workers seeking a better life are forming their union with the Teamsters.

“As economic disparity surges across our nation, these workers took matters into their own hands by mobilizing to form their union with the Teamsters,” said Jim Hoffa, Teamsters General President. “There is no better way to level the playing field for workers than by gaining strength by becoming Teamsters. While the elected officials give us empty promises, these workers gave themselves real hope for a brighter future.”

“It was a really good year for building Teamster power and assisting over 35,000 workers to become Teamsters,” said Jeff Farmer, Director of the Teamsters Organizing Department. “Dozens and dozens of local unions, working on their own or alongside the International Union, mobilized to organize workers. They know that organizing needs to be a priority to grow and strengthen our union for the benefit of all our members.”

Variety of Victories

Every organizing campaign was different. Some of the victories involved years of perseverance, like the Clark County victory. The workers voted to form their union in November and December 2015, but the unit had already voted overwhelmingly in favor of Local 14 representation in February 2015 and way back in 2006. However, until this most recent vote, elections required a supermajority (50-percent-plus-1 of all eligible voters). Following the election in February, hundreds of support staff took their case to the state to win a fair election.

“This is what democracy looks like,” said Carlos Pinto, a head custodian in Clark County. “We, the workers, brought change. It’s hard to express how meaningful this victory is for us. We couldn’t be prouder.”

Many campaigns relied on member involvement, such as the FedEx Freight and Con-way Freight campaigns, where Teamsters took time out to talk to workers at those two companies while out on their routes or at loading docks. The effort continues, with Teamsters volunteering their time to hand out leaflets near FedEx Freight terminals to show that the union is there to fight for them.

“We work hard to make this company successful, and we want fair wages, better benefits and working conditions, and a pension,” said Emiliano Najera, a Con-way driver. “We deserve to be treated with respect and dignity for doing a good job every day.”

Worker Movements

Many campaigns involved building worker movements, such as the campaign at Sysco and US Foods, the freight campaigns and the ongoing campaign to organize port truck drivers and end the illegal misclassification that is taking place.

“I am very proud of what we have accomplished,” said Hector Flores, a misclassified “independent contractor” at Intermodal Bridge Transport and married father of two. “For too long, we have been treated like the orphans of the port, disrespected by the boss and voiceless at work. Now we have earned the respect of the marine terminal operators and the world. We won’t back down until the boss respects us as well.”

In March, a group of 50 drivers at FedEx Freight’s Stockton, Calif., terminal voted to join Local 439, which followed other victories in 2014.

“The company spent huge amounts of money and time to try to get us to vote no, but we remained focused on changing how FedEx treats us so that we can have a say on the job,” said Mel Mendieta, a FedEx Freight driver.

“We know that the only way to win job security, an improved health plan and strong retirement security is to stand together as Teamsters,” said Jorge Lopez, a FedEx Freight driver.

The school bus organizing continued to roll in 2015, with hundreds of workers joining the Teamsters, including 64 workers in Tifton, N.H. who joined Local 633.

In the Spotlight

Other campaigns continued to attract national attention, including the victories in the tech industry at Facebook, Google Express, Apple, Yahoo, eBay and other companies, whose workers joined Local 853 in San Leandro, Calif.

“This is a bright ray of hope for us that our lives at work will get better,” said Gabriel Cardenas, a shift coordinator at Google Express. “We’ve seen what the union has done for other workers in tech and we are so happy to have our union now, too.”

The workers at the tech companies are winning strong contracts.

“I’ve been with Loop Transportation for two years and I’m grateful to everyone at Local 853 for this contract,” said Sean Hinman, a shuttle bus driver at Loop, which contracts with Facebook. “I’m happy we have a grievance and arbitration procedure. I really like the retirement plan and the lower premium for medical coverage. And we are very happy with the improvements to the split shift, which was a big issue for us.”

For workers, joining the Teamsters is life-changing. That is the case for Ivo Rodriguez, a San Bernardino County worker whose father was a Teamster for 50 years.

“I am proud of several things: my daughters being born, marrying the woman I love,” Rodriguez said. “But what I am most proud of is being a former Marine and protecting the country I love. It feels like that again with this victory. I am part of an organization, the Teamsters, that makes sure the workers of this country are represented well by strong values.”

Rodriguez and his co-workers cast ballots in March and April in favor of Teamster representation.

It was a great year for organizing in the waste industry, with hundreds of workers voting to become Teamsters.

“Individually, we as drivers had no voice with management to create positive change in our working conditions,” said driver Vincent Smith, a 27-year employee at Waste Management in Redding, California who voted to join Local 137. “With the help of the Teamsters, I look forward to participating in improving our work environment as well as employee satisfaction.”