(TUKWILA, Wash.)—Yesterday morning, 23 Airgas drivers in the Seattle area voted to become members of Teamsters Local 174. The group of drivers, who perform a wide variety of services including everything from delivering essential gases to hospitals to keeping soda fountains running with deliveries of liquid CO2, will join over 700 other Airgas employees across the country as members of the Teamsters Union.
The election victory came after a very brief but vicious anti-union campaign by the company. Airgas brought in union-busting attorneys to hold regular anti-union meetings with the drivers, and to ride along with them throughout the day spewing anti-union rhetoric.
“Despite the company’s best efforts to brainwash the employees against forming a union, these Airgas drivers voted in favor of themselves and their families,” said Local 174 Director of Organizing Meaza Ogbe, who organized the group. “They realized that if a company can afford to spend that kind of money on union-busters to fight the union, then they can certainly afford to pay their workers a better wage with a benefits package that will help support their families.”
“The Teamsters have a strong density at Airgas in the East and Central parts of the country, but less so in the West,” said IBT Western Region Tankhaul Director and Local 174 Senior Business Agent David Jacobsen. “With this organizing victory, Local 174 is taking the lead on building strength at Airgas in the West.”
The group of drivers had been in contact with Local 174 for quite a while, which meant that when the organizing campaign officially began, support for unionization was already strong.
“We are proud of these drivers for having the courage to take charge of their own future,” said Teamsters Local 174 Secretary-Treasurer Rick Hicks. “We welcome them into our family and look forward to getting a great contract that will improve their lives.”
As for the drivers themselves, they are excited about the next chapter of their lives. “This feels good,” said driver Robert Castro. “It really feels like we just joined a huge family of support.”
Founded in 1909, Teamsters Local 174 represents 7,200 working men and women in the Seattle area. “Like” us on Facebook at www.facebook.com/TeamstersLocal174.