CHARLESTON, S.C. — After a week of talking to members at worksites throughout South Carolina, members of Local 509 spent the Leap Day primary celebrating their work at a “Seafood Fest” GOTV event. Members proudly wore their “I Voted” stickers as they enjoyed a Low Country Boil.
From school bus barns to manufacturing plants, Local 509 members talked to one another about the issues and encouraged each other to vote. At school bus yards in Charleston, members got right to the point with questions like “are you registered to vote?” and “you voting on Saturday?”
“I’m not telling you who to vote for, I’m just telling you to vote,” said Local 509 business agent and political coordinator Sebrina Isom, handing out leaflets to members highlighting Teamster issues and directing them to visit www.teamstersvote.com to find out more.
At the “Azalea” yard, school bus drivers for Charleston County Schools were planning to head to the polls, but were aware of how important it is to hold these candidates accountable.
“We got a lot of candidates in South Carolina trying to get our vote, talking about the importance of the black vote in South Carolina; but what are these candidates actually going to do for us black folks once the campaigns are over?” said Felicia Nelson, school bus driver and member of Teamsters Local 509.
Like many Teamsters across the country, pensions and collective bargaining rights are at the forefront in South Carolina.
“For me it’s about pensions,” said Lynnwood Perry, shop steward at AGY, a manufacturing plant in Aiken, S.C. “I’ve been working for a long time paying into this pension, and I’m not one of those young guys, my time is coming and I need to know that my pension will be there for me.”
“We’re a right-to-work state here in South Carolina and it’s no joke,” said Isom. “It gets much harder to organize when you’re getting the police called on you for trying to talk to workers. We need a candidate who will stand up and make sure the NLRB is serving those who are trying to organize here in South Carolina; people shouldn’t have to be afraid or intimidated at work for trying to form a union.”
Throughout 2019, Local 509 members traveled around the state to raise questions to candidates and push them to stand by unions. They successfully met every Democratic candidate for president and got them on the record. All that work paid off as their fellow members were able to make an educated choice on who to support.
Up the road in North Carolina, Teamsters Local 71 did their part to encourage members in South Carolina to participate in the primary.
Will McMahon, a UPS Driver and a South Carolina member of Local 71, shared his thoughts on what would drive more union members to the polls.
“A lot of focus goes into how were going to build up business, but what gets left behind in the dust is exactly who is building that business up, often with back breaking work,” he said.
“All Locals need to come together and reach out to their members and educate us on what’s out there,” said McMahon. “Like organizing, a lot of it comes down to that peer to peer conversation.”
Michael Daley, a YRC Driver and 30-year Teamster, echoed those sentiments.
“People need to vote, we need people to understand how important this is,” he said. “I don’t think there is ever enough talk about the working man, if we as labor stuck together, we would have the biggest voting bloc. Making people aware that there is something going on, it does affect us.”
With South Carolina in the rearview, Teamsters across the country can be proud to know that the union is doing its part every step of the way to make sure the next president will stand with us.