Jacobus Energy Workers in Memphis Choose Teamsters
A group of Jacobus Energy tankhaul drivers in Memphis, Tenn. recently joined Local 667. The new Teamsters, who haul fuel, work in one of the most difficult and dangerous trucking jobs.
Ricardo Hebron is a Jacobus Energy worker in Memphis who has been with the fuel services provider for 17 years. He has been a Teamster twice before in his career so he already knows the benefits of union membership. He and his co-workers deliver fuel to construction sites, Amtrak, FedEx, Coca-Cola and other companies.
“It’s a demanding job but I love it,” Hebron said of his job at the fuel services provider. “I describe this as a sort of freestyle company, where they do what they want to do and assign jobs to whoever they want.”
Local 667 Organizer Nebraska Dover worked with Hebron to form their union with Local 667.
“It was clear these workers didn’t have a voice or any standard operation procedures on that job,” Dover said. “The company was saying the union just wanted dues, but everyone knew better than that. They stuck together because they wanted a better future, and that gave them energy and momentum. It seemed like everything was against them, but they stuck it out. Everyone followed the directions of the game plan we set up.”
Dover has only been an organizer for a few years but his enthusiasm is evident. He was a freight driver for 35 years, including time as a Teamster at USF Holland and, before that, as a nonunion driver. He knows the union can give the workers what they are looking for: seniority rights, an end to favoritism, and dignity on the job.
“Everyone stuck together. It wasn’t easy because the campaign was really negative,” Hebron said. “They tried to turn us against each other but it didn’t work.”
They won the election overwhelmingly, even though the company successfully challenged some of the “yes” votes.
“With this pandemic, workers need someone who is going to speak up for them—especially essential workers,” said James E. Jones III, President of Local 667 in Memphis. “Right now more than ever, companies are looking out for themselves. Workers need a collective voice and someone looking out for them, for their health and safety on the job. And your voice is always louder when you speak as a group.”
This is Local 667’s second organizing victory since the quarantine caused mass stay-at-home orders for everyone but essential workers.
“We’ve been looking at groups that we have thought about before or have shown interest but they just weren’t all the way there. Nonunion workers right now are showing more interest in unions,” Jones said. “People are looking at how they are being treated…working the same amount of hours or more, not getting PPE or hazard pay from employers. Those working without a union contract are starting to realize what they’re missing.”
Both of Local 667’s recent organizing campaigns have been lightning-fast affairs, taking about three weeks from the beginning of the campaign to filing for an election.
“The enthusiasm these Jacobus Energy workers showed, and the courage the speak up for themselves, was amazing to see,” Jones said.