There’s a reason Teamsters Local 79 Shop Stewards Ken Williams and Larry Dupree are better known by their nicknames, Salt and Pepper.
“People won’t remember Ken and Larry, but people will remember salt and pepper because there’s one of each at every table,” said Ken Williams. “That way, everywhere we go we leave a lasting impression.”
Williams (Salt) and Dupree (Pepper) have known each other for over 30 years from working at UPS together, but they became good friends when they got more involved with their local union. In addition to serving as shop stewards, they sit on Local 79’s executive board – Williams as Recording Secretary and Dupree as a Trustee.
Salt and Pepper have been making trips to Tallahassee, the state capital, for many years to lobby the legislature on behalf of their fellow members. Over the years the duo made a name for themselves among organized labor in Florida thanks to their dogged and passionate political advocacy. It wasn’t surprising, then, when Florida AFL-CIO President Mike Williams called Local 79 President Brian Rothman to let him know that their help was needed. A few days after the call, salt and pepper made the trip from Tampa Bay to join the disaster relief labor coalition in rebuilding the panhandle after the devastation of Hurricane Michael.
“This our first time doing disaster relief, this is all new to us,” Dupree said. “One of the things that surprised me was that even though these people have lost everything, they were still happy enough to help each other out. One person lost a roof, another had a tree fall on his house. Still, when we went to deliver supplies, they both said, ‘I’m not taking anything more than exactly what I need because it’s important that other people who are worse off than I am have resources as well.’ ”
“Living in Florida, it was overwhelming emotionally because any of us could be in their position at any given time,” Williams said. “That’s part of the reason we’re out here – we want to help those in need today so they may return and help us in the future. We’ve even gotten a few ideas that we can use for an emergency response plan in case this situation hits us back home.”
Salt and Pepper both noted that the spirit of Teamster solidarity was ever present as the coalition embarked upon its mission of repairing the damage caused by the hurricane.
“This experience really shows that fellowship with our brothers and sisters is an ongoing process in family building, because the knowledge that another person has that they share with us, we pass that knowledge forward,” Williams said. “To see so many organizations come together, whether they are a local union out of St. Louis or California or New York – to see all of them stop what they’re doing to come help people is really amazing.”
“It really brings us together, and it gives me joy to help someone in need,” Dupree said. “It’s great to see the camaraderie of everyone wanting to chip in and help one another. It’s devastating to lose your home and then have no electricity, water, food or clothes. Just to come out here to try and help really makes you feel good.”
To make a donation to the Teamsters Disaster Relief, go to http://tdr.teamster.org/. You can also mail a donation to the following address:
Teamsters Disaster Relief Fund
c/o International Brotherhood of Teamsters
25 Louisiana Avenue, NW
Washington, D.C. 20001