Teamsters Training and Development Department Prepares Members For Every Issue
The Teamsters Union doesn’t just organize and represent members. It prepares them for negotiations and leadership roles in the union. It teaches them the history of the Teamsters. It grooms good stewards. It educates the next generation of Teamsters.
The Teamsters Training and Development Department creates programs and materials that will build skills and enhance knowledge, as well as foster commitment and dedication within the union. Seminars for members, stewards, business agents and officers provide the perfect opportunity to build union solidarity, mentor younger members and identify specific concerns of union membership and the labor movement.
“When we educate Teamsters, whether it be skills to negotiate or enforce contracts, knowledge of labor law or methods for organizing workers, we strengthen our union and give all workers more tools to win a voice at work and dignity on the job,” said General President Jim Hoffa. “Active, educated workers are the best weapon against the anti-labor forces the labor movement faces today.”
As the Teamsters Union tackles the challenges of the 21st century, members must be well informed about the global nature of the economy and ever-changing industries. The organizing efforts necessary to secure and maintain our quality of life requires that all workers become active in the union and understand the mission, goals, struggles and achievements of the Teamsters as the union fights to bring a better life to all working families.
‘A Great Success’
A main objective of the Training and Development Department is to complement the educational strategies local unions have in place, and to build on local traditions and strengths.
At the request of principal officers or other elected officials, Training and Development staff travel to local unions more than 140 times each year to conduct training programs.
“We have had the training department do a steward training strictly for school bus stewards. We were having problems with the stewards processing grievances,” said Dave Lucas, Secretary-Treasurer of Local 671, based in Bloomfield, Conn. “Since the training, the stewards have taken on the grievances. That program was a great success. We plan on setting up additional trainings.”
A few months earlier, Lucas, his local and other locals in Connecticut, participated in an organizing training.
“The organizing training that Rocco Calo (Local 1150 Secretary-Treasurer) and I requested was great. Cindy Impala (Director of Training and Development) and her staff worked with us to design a specific program for the potential organizers. We wanted a program that had the nuts and bolts of organizing. It lasted about nine days in the end, and six members completed the training,” Lucas said.
The training, based on Teamster Leadership Academy (TLA) materials, introduced members interested in organizing to the basics of working campaigns. Local members were ready to work on the campaigns, but many had no experience in organizing—and locals could not afford to wait until the next session of TLA. The TLA is a five-day program designed to teach Teamster organizers the fundamentals.
From making house calls to legal considerations during the election process, members experience many of the realities of organizing through practicing on a sample campaign. The department customized organizing fundamentals into a package that specifically addressed the needs of the Connecticut organizers.
“Speaker after speaker came in and talked about everything we needed to know,” Calo said. “The Training and Development Department is always so impressive. Their trainings are invaluable and a wealth of information for both rank-and-file members and the leadership of the union.”
“The Training and Development Department was professional and did a great job, and you can see some of the results of that program today,” Lucas said.
Locals 1150 and 671 now each have three fully trained organizers, and the organizers have already had successful elections with both the NLRB and state labor boards.
“I have been a union official for 23 years and I am positive that this department is in the best condition now than it has ever been. All locals should take advantage of the training provided,” Lucas said.
Equipping the Union for Every Issue
“The challenges of the 21st century go far beyond the ‘bread and butter’ issues of the past decades,” Impala said. “Good jobs, fair trade, retirement security, health care reform, economic, energy and environmental policies—these are some of the issues that take center stage today. Thoughtful, skilled leadership and strong member participation are critical in this kind of environment. The Training and Development Department helps equip the members and leaders in this union for every issue.”
In addition to the Organizing TLA, there are a number of other leadership programs offered, like Business Agent Skills in Survival (BASIS). Beverly Williams, a business agent with Local 986 in Los Angeles, recently attended a BASIS training and is in the process of implementing the negotiation skills she learned in the class.
“There was a definite emphasis on making sure that we take care of the members. They come first!” Williams said. “Just like all of the other resources that the International Union provides for locals, the training is another tool that the union representatives can use to develop their skills for being an effective business agent.”
“I don’t believe you can learn in one week what this job entails. I do believe that knowing what resources are available, the different departments and how to contact them is an invaluable tool,” said Mark Woomer, a Local 952 business agent who also recently took the BASIS Training.
“The training was very instrumental in my becoming a more effective business agent by developing a partnership with the IBT, learning new skills and learning all the resources available in other areas of the job, such as politics and organizing,” he said.
Woomer said he’s already using what he learned in negotiations on behalf of his members. He learned about creating a survey form and the guidelines recommended by the instructors in his upcoming negotiations. The response has strengthened the bargaining process, he said.
“We have to realize that there are limits on what we are capable of doing as individuals in the labor movement,” Woomer said. “This department helps create an opportunity for us to take what we have learned and work together as one for the better of the labor movement as a whole.”
“We’re showing real results and we couldn’t have done it without the information from that department,” Calo said. “I encourage everyone to take advantage of what the Training and Development Department offers. You really will be amazed.”