More Than 200 Teamster Organizers Go Back to Basics
More than 200 organizers from local unions, Joint Councils and the International Union attended the annual organizing conference in October, focusing on the basic skills that have helped the Teamsters Union grow while national union membership has declined.
“While other unions struggle and lose members, the Teamsters are getting bigger and stronger all the time,” Teamsters General President Jim Hoffa said to open the conference in Fort Worth, Texas. “We are growing because we’ve built a mighty, well-trained army of organizers that has reached out to workers from coast to coast.”
Hoffa outlined the union’s recent organizing successes: more than 2,000 workers organized in the intermodal rail transportation industry; 600 workers at Sysco; more than 1,700 workers at hotels in Las Vegas; 400 nurses in Idaho; more than 2,000 school bus drivers bringing the total to 60,000 over the past 15 years; and the ongoing campaign to organize 4,000 Clark County School District workers near Las Vegas.
“The Teamsters Union continues to make organizing our top priority so that we grow even stronger into the next decade and in decades to come,” Hoffa said.
Our Mighty Army
Despite the Teamsters’ success, there are many challenges facing workers, from the proliferation of right-to-work laws, corporate America’s ongoing attacks against workers, and the critical 2020 elections, among other issues.
“We are really in a fight for our lives,” said Jeff Farmer, Teamsters Organizing Director. “However, I am heartened by the more than 200 organizers in this room—our mighty army—who work hard every day reaching out to workers to tell them about the importance of having a voice on the job, a Teamster contract and the strength of 1.4 million Teamsters standing with them,” Farmer said. “Organizing is a skill, an art and a discipline, and organizers at this conference show their commitment every day to improving the lives of thousands of workers.”
Attendees at this year’s organizing conference brushed up on key skills: connecting through one-on-one discussions with workers; forming successful organizing committees; communication messaging and methods; digital organizing techniques; effective research and more.
William Hale, a member of Local 767 in Forest Hill, Texas and steward at UPS, said he constantly tries to educate his co-workers about the Teamsters Union.
“I’m a pre-loader in the Denton, Texas center and I reach out to new workers right away to educate them about the union, to tell them about the rights they have as Teamsters and get them to sign up,” Hale said. “I try to build a culture at work where my co-workers know that we’re a union here, that we are all stronger as Teamsters.”
Dala Watson, an organizer with the school bus campaign, said the conference will make her a better organizer.
“This conference helps me with my job,” she said. “I helped form our union at Illinois Central. I know how the bosses can treat you poorly, all the antics they pull. The things I am learning here will help me help others with what I have achieved on the job. It helps me improve their lives and the lives of their families.”
Jorge Mayorga, an organizer and member of Local 848 in Glendora, Calif., said the conference is important for the social interactions and connections.
“The conference helps build relationships and we share experiences as organizers,” said Mayorga, who was a port driver for 32 years. “In the port campaign, we set up pickets frequently, so it’s also good to learn about all the legal issues involved.”
Jesse Mathus, organizing director for Local 2010 in Oakland, Calif., echoed Mayorga’s comments.
“The conference allows us to communicate with our fellow organizers nationwide and reinforce the basics,” Mathus said. “This conference also reinvigorates us and inspires us by seeing what other organizers are doing and it helps us get ready for the fights ahead.”