The 2018 Teamsters Women’s Conference kicked off on September 16 in Orlando, Fla. just steps away from “the happiest place on earth,” Disney World. This year’s theme, “Dream, Believe and Achieve,” was fitting for the more than 1,300 Teamsters from across North America that united in solidarity and sisterhood.
The three-day annual conference was filled with opportunities to learn through various educational workshops, panels and social activities. But most importantly the conference gives the opportunity to hear inspirational stories of success, triumph, and taking action against sexual harassment and gender discrimination from their fellow sisters.
General President James P. Hoffa welcomed the Teamster women, expressing his appreciation and commending the enthusiasm and energy.
“I’m excited about what we’re doing because we are doing so many good things here. This is the year of the woman!” Hoffa said.
The opening session highlighted women whose efforts and continuous activism led to real change, like Ceia Collins, recipient of the 2018 Barbara Liddy Teamster Woman Activist Award; who for over 20 years has continuously fought for women’s equality in the workforce and for the rights of all workers.
“It has always been the members who have moved me and motivated me, and who made me the Teamster woman I am today. And I just want to thank you all for your support throughout my years as a Teamster member,” Collins said.
XPO and Passenger Transportation
The opening session concluded with three brave women of XPO Logistics, Tasha Murrell, Lakeisha Nelson and Tierra Ellis, who are exposing the horror inside XPO’s warehouses after witnessing the tragic death of their friend and co-worker Linda Neal last October. After Neal passed out and hit her head, management denied her medical attention and refused to call 911. The three women shared their personal stories of discrimination, sexual harassment and even a miscarriage while working on the warehouse floor.
“These are difficult and divisive times. You, like us, are facing the relentless race to the bottom. It’s undermining everything we fought for and everything we’ve achieved,” said Diana Holland of the International Transport Workers’ Federation. “So when we in the U.K. heard the shocking circumstances of the XPO Memphis warehouse and the tragic death of Linda Neal…it motivated a lot of our members to fight the social injustices.”
The Teamster women also heard the empowering voice of Passenger Transportation Division Representative Stacey Murphy who riled up the crowd in her opening before updating the attendees on the Division’s progress.
“It has been a top priority of the Division and the Teamsters, under General President Hoffa’s leadership, to bring other major bus companies in line with FirstGroup,” said Murphy.
“Women are rising! We are marching, rallying, we’re registering to vote. We are voting in record numbers and you know what else; we are running for office,” said Teamsters Political and Legislative Action Director Christy Bailey.
The conference ended with an all-woman panel which touched on various issues that women and the union are facing today, including how they’ve used their life obstacles to change the culture and make a difference in the world. Like the story of Joanne Kilpatrick, a breast cancer survivor and member of Local 773 for over 30 years.
Kilpatrick gave an inspiring and emotional speech on her breast cancer journey and what she endured in the workplace along the way. “There’s no good reason why I’m standing with you here today, except if I can get one woman or man to go get a screening and mammography testing, it will be all worth it,” she said.
“On July 27, 2013, at 9 p.m., I got a call and was told I had lobular carcinoma breast cancer. I had to sit my three children down and tell them their mom has breast cancer…I called my business agent and told him I’m really sick, but I only have 10 sick days on the books, and I have to start treatment and it’s not going to end for six months, and I don’t know what I’m going to do. I was frightened. And Central Administration in my school district stopped sick banks for teachers. And where I work, if they’re not giving sick banks to teachers they’re sure as hell not giving sick banks to secretaries. But my local had a private meeting and within two weeks I had 100 sick days banked for me. And I want to publicly thank two of those women here today, and all of the other 85 women who got behind me. Because I am cured, and I am well, and I thank God I have a union!”
It is inspiring stories like Kilpatrick’s, the teachers in West Virginia and the women of XPO Logistics, which show the strength and the unrelenting tenacity of Teamster women. And it shows that when women come together, they are unstoppable.
For more stories and photos from the event, visit ibt.io/teamsterwomen.