More than 150 Teamster delegates gathered on the opening day of the biannual convening of the Teamsters National Hispanic Caucus (TNHC) at Bally’s Hotel and Casino in Atlantic City, N.J. View more photos from opening day, here.
“One of the greatest values of our union is our commitment to diversity and I am proud that the Teamsters have maintained their commitment to uplift all people, including the growing number of Hispanic people in the United States,” said George Miranda, President of the TNHC and Local 210.
Miranda talked about the importance of voting for Hispanics in the upcoming November elections, highlighting key issues for Latino and Latina Teamsters, including immigration reform, income inequality and political activities affecting labor.
“It is critical that when you go back to your locals, your cities and your states, you get active and make your voices heard,” said Miranda. “You need to vote and make sure that our politicians carry a pro-Hispanic, pro-worker agenda to city halls, state legislatures, Congress and the White House.”
Al Rispoli, President of Joint Council 73 and Local 863, spoke about the importance of ending racial discrimination in the workplace.
“Where I’m from in New Jersey, all families, whether they’re African-American, Caucasian, Hispanic, Indian, Asian, whatever their race, we live together harmoniously,” said Rispoli. “That’s why the work you’re doing is so important: because we need all employers to treat everyone equally in the workplace.”
Cynthia Rivera, a Teamster school bus organizer, expressed optimism about the union’s organizing battle with National Express, known as Durham in the United States.
“We’ve raised standards for thousands of Hispanic school bus drivers across the nation,” said Rivera. “We’re ready to take our organizing fight to Durham and continue to empower Hispanic workers at school bus yards everywhere in the United States.”
Atlantic City Mayor Donald Guardian welcomed the delegation to Atlantic City and expressed the bipartisan importance of labor in a historic city for unions.
“I’m a Republican mayor in a city where Democrats outnumber Republicans by a margin of about 10 to 1,” said Mayor Guardian. “So, as I’m sure many of you are wondering, how on earth was this guy able to get elected in this city? It’s because I went door-to-door, listening to my constituents. I care about the working people of this city. Unions built this town, they are still the foundation of our community and protecting their economic livelihoods and rights is a top priority for leaders in this area, no matter your political orientation.”
Ron Herrera, Teamsters Western Region International Vice President and Director of the Teamsters Solid Waste Division articulated the groundbreaking work that Hispanic workers in the Teamsters are performing in the union, recognizing many individuals in the room who are the first Hispanic principal officers at their respective locals.
“If civil rights is the direction that this union is heading, I think that is an excellent thing,” said Herrera. “Hispanic people are the fastest growing population in the United States and we need to put our issues at the forefront of everyone’s agenda. Don’t stop protesting, don’t stop agitating, go out and make your voices heard.”
Other speakers included Teamster historian Karin Jones, who gave an outstanding presentation on the history of the Teamsters pursuit of racial justice. Raven Hall, a staff attorney at the IBT, discussed the importance of organizing in the fight to raise living standards for marginalized workers, how immigration reform can serve as a catalyst for the labor movement and can end stigmas about undocumented workers. Marcus King, President of Local 331 talked about the importance of standing in solidarity with other union members to ensure that contracts within a unionized industry remain strong, and Wilfredo Reyes, a striker from UNITE-HERE Local 54, who are on strike at the Taj Mahal casino in Atlantic City.
A resolution was passed in support of the striking workers from UNITE and the Teamsters committed to taking action in support of their fellow brothers and sisters.
The second and final day of the convention begins tomorrow and will feature reports on local activities from TNHC chapters around the nation, elections for the Executive Board of the TNHC and a reception to celebrate the conclusion of another successful caucus.