In September, the Teamsters Union kicked off its annual Women’s Conference in San Antonio, where more than 1,000 Teamster women gathered from all across North America in solidarity and unity.
The annual conference provides the opportunity for women of all backgrounds to unite and empower one another through educational workshops, panels and social activities.
“Our conference is themed ‘Teamster Women Spur Change’ because Teamsters don’t sit by and wait for change; we go out and make it happen.” said Becky Strzechowski, Director of the Teamsters Women’s Conference.
Over the course of three days, Teamster women filled every seat in the hotel’s ballroom, participated in various workshops, and shared their incredible and empowering stories of strength, tenacity and dedication.
Jim Hoffa, Teamsters General President, expressed his appreciation and commended the enthusiasm and energy from all the trailblazing women fighting injustice, standing up for workers’ rights, pushing for political change and taking on leadership roles.
“We have major fights ahead of us to protect everything we stand for, and we have full confidence in the strong Teamster sisters of our union. And together, we will spur change,” Hoffa said.
Energy and Inspiration
The first day was full of energy and inspiration as Ken Hall, Teamsters General Secretary-Treasurer, presented the Barbara Liddy Teamster Woman Activist Award to Leticia Acosta, Secretary-Treasurer of Local 657 and of Joint Council 58, for dedicating more than 30 years of her life to building a stronger Teamsters Union and advocating for her sisters and brothers to have a voice and give the respect all workers deserve.
“Ladies, if it’s in your mind go out there and fight, fight, fight!” Acosta said.
At the end of the opening day, a tone was set for what the days ahead would bring: empowerment, motivation and belief that there is no glass ceiling that a woman cannot break.
The second day opened with an address from Hall to another packed house of more than 1,000 Teamster women.
“We are thrilled to be in San Antonio, in a room filled with such amazing and vigorous Teamster women. It is your commitment and energy to the Teamsters Union that makes this event so successful every year,” Hall said.
Hall addressed the opioid epidemic and the union’s efforts to combat the crisis, reported on the healthy state of the strike fund and praised those in attendance for what they were doing.
Carmen Perez, founder of the Justice League and organizer of the 2017 Women’s March, kept the energy alive with her inspirational and motivational speech on empowerment and the importance of coming together as one.
“If you want to play the game, you have to have heart,” Perez said.
Rebecca Hernandez, a longtime Vistar/PFG employee and single mother who is currently on strike, took to the stage echoing Perez about empowerment, gender inequality and fighting together as one.
“We are tired of being disrespected just because we are women, so we are standing up for a living wage because this is about our families, our kids,” Hernandez said. “We’ve given so much to this company so they could become millionaires. Some of us have been working for the company for as long as 15 years, and Vistar refuses to provide equal pay for equal work.”
Teamsters Organizing Director Jeff Farmer concluded a second and successful day of the conference with reports on recent organizing victories, and encouraging the Teamster women to continue their efforts to fight injustice, take on leadership roles, and empower each other and the young women who look up to them.
The final day of conference wrapped up with emotional and moving speeches on gender inequality and raising awareness on mental illness.
Claire Clarke, Women Transport Workers’ and Equalities Assistant at the International Transport Workers’ Federation, kicked off the final day’s opening remarks with an address on gender inequality, equal pay and the lack of rights women have in the workplace that is still prevalent today.
Clarke talked about the critical role that activism plays in making a change, urging and challenging the crowd to stand up against injustice and inequality; to come together, advocate for their Teamster sisters and change the toxic culture that consumes so much of the workforce.
Motivation and Determination
Dr. Melissa Talamantes, a Clinical Psychologist in San Antonio, gave an eye-opening presentation on “The Sandwich Generation,” the generation of moms and dads sandwiched between raising their children and taking care of their parents at the same time. And the burden of taking care of both older and younger generations (especially those who have a mental illness) is left to the person caught in the middle. She stressed the importance of knowing how and when to get the right help, and for others to be compassionate of their fellow Teamster sisters.
One Teamster attendee shared her impactful story about the hardships of mental illness and the struggles she endures daily. She expressed her gratitude to the Teamsters for their support and continuing to stand by her. The room was touched, and her ability to show her strength through vulnerability was felt by all those in the room, as the crowd stood up in standing ovation.
The final day’s stories, speeches and presentations summed up the three-day conference that gave a new sense of motivation and determination to the Teamster women.
Those in attendance showed they not only unite for a few days, but they live by the values of who the Teamsters are. They don’t sit by and wait for change or accept inequality, they go out and fight for all workers.