Four members of Teamsters Local 17 were sworn in this week as elected officials of Denver’s city government, giving the union a huge presence and a growing ability to advocate for its membership and other workers in the nation’s 19th largest city.
Paul Lopez is Denver’s new Clerk and Recorder, and is joined by three new members of the City Council – Jamie Torres (District 3), Candi CdeBaca (District 9) and Chris Hinds (District 10). CdeBaca and Hinds defeated incumbents in their run-off races last month.
Local 17 Secretary-Treasurer Duane Grove said the victories were the result of the hard work put by the Teamsters to get involved in this election beginning in 2016. He is hopeful the victories will allow the union to grow its public sector membership, which totals about 525 currently.
“This is an incredible thing,” Grove said. “We are hoping it will lead to collective bargaining. It gives us an opportunity.”
Ed Bagwell, Local 17’s President, agreed. He said the victories show the power the Teamsters had in the process and is optimistic public employees will ultimately benefit through better pay and working conditions.
“It is unprecedented that the unions elect three members” to the City Council, he said. “We are four votes away from collective bargaining.”
The candidates said the Teamsters offered them important assistance that helped lead them to victory, including boots on the ground that went with them door-to-door.
“You are talking about one of the largest unions in the country,” Lopez said. “We organize. It’s organizing that brought us to the dance. And it is organizing that is going to allow us to make more history.”
Candidates aligned with the Teamsters supported a platform that stressed collective bargaining, good contracting and card-check neutrality. Hinds said the issues reflect the values that he and other Teamster candidates pushed for in their campaigns.
“Some people are jaded and belief our political system has been bought by wealthy special interests, and I don’t disagree with them,” he said. “It is important if I am going to be talking about representing working families, if I’m going to talk about affordable housing and a fair living wage, that I shouldn’t just talk about it, I should put my money where my mouth is.”
CdeBaca said she will not forget her grassroots voting bloc that carried her to a dramatic victory as she moves forward to the City Council.
“The things that the Teamsters have been asking for are very basic requests,” she said. “They are absolutely requests that should be fulfilled. And I am committed to that.”