Courageous Teamsters Honored at Local 237
Local 237, the largest Teamster local union, recently hosted an event to honor bold and courageous Teamsters committed to justice.
Teamster members, allies and supporters gathered at the local during Women’s History Month to pay tribute to Marie Colvin, an assassinated war correspondent and former Teamster, along with three Teamster school safety agents who led the way to winning a major victory for gender pay equity.
In 2010, Local 237 President Greg Floyd sued New York City on behalf of 5,000 Teamster school safety agents. Seventy-percent of the bargaining unit members are women, and they were making $7,000 less annually than their counterparts with similar titles, working in other city agencies. Most of those workers were male.
“Some called this just a coincidence. I called this discrimination,” Floyd said.
Floyd asked members to step forward, and Corinthians Andrews, Patricia Williams and Bernice Christopher joined on as plaintiffs in the lawsuit. Together, they sought justice, and in 2014 won an historic $38 million settlement in the largest class-action pay discrimination lawsuit in the nation. Since the settlement, Andrews sadly passed away from cancer, but her daughter, Destiny Andrews, spoke of her courage.
“She fought every day until you won, and when she was too weak to be there in person, she was on the phone. You know her as a friend and colleague and are proud of her, but I am so proud to call her my mom,” Andrews said.
“The fact that we’ve had this major achievement only heightens the things we are able to accomplish as women to keep pushing forward,” said Kangela Moore, a 26-year school safety agent. “The union backed us up and we are having this event to acknowledge all that we’ve done.”
Denise McIntosh, a 17-year school safety agent, said the focus of the lawsuit was on fairness.
“It’s about equality because women are not less dominant, powerful or important than the male officers out there. That was the focal point of the lawsuit. I’m glad we won that, and the new agents are able to come in and receive better finances for the hard work that they are doing,” McIntosh said.
Long before the school safety agents won their equal pay fight, it was at Local 237 where Marie Colvin began her career, writing for the local’s newsletter. She met with workers and interviewed members, telling their stories.
Eventually, Colvin went on to become a war correspondent, reporting from dangerous locations around the globe. She was in Iraq and East Timor. She was blinded in one eye by a blast in Sri Lanka. She lost her life at the age of 56, killed while reporting in Syria. In 2018, her story was made into a Golden Globe-nominated film, “A Private War,” introducing to a wider audience this Teamster who never forgot her roots.
Joe McDermott, the former Director of Training and Education at Local 237, hired Colvin. He remembers a bright, personable young woman who connected with the members. Just as she told their stories, she went on to tell the stories of people living amid war overseas.
“She didn’t have a death wish. She had an obligation, a quest,” McDermott said. “We are honoring Marie at a time when we need heroes. School children will be reading about her.”
“I can’t tell you how proud she was to be a Teamster. The Teamsters gave her the freedom and empowered her to write about people,” said Cat Colvin, Marie Colvin’s sister. “We come from a union family and understand how much more we can do together than any one of us separately. She learned so much from the Teamsters and it set her on a career where she never lost that vision.”