Last month, a contingent of 18 Teamsters 856 women traveled to San Antonio to represent the Local at the International Brotherhood of Teamsters Women’s Conference. The three-day event, which drew 1,100 attendees from across the U.S. and Canada this year, offers Teamster women an opportunity to engage in educational workshops, make connections with fellow Teamster women, and learn about national Teamster campaigns.
But for 856 members, the conference’s culmination came on its second day when Local 856 was recognized for organizing 5,000 members in just 4 years at the event’s general session. Local 856 members packed the stage behind Teamsters 856 Representative Jeanette Bradfield and Mount Diablo Unified School District Member Tamara Boyer as they spoke to the attendees about this extraordinary win for worker power in Northern California.
The moment was particularly poignant for Bradfield, the former city of Orinda employee whose initial phone call to the Teamsters seeking strong representation sparked a watershed moment for public employees in Contra Costa County. After Orinda employees joined Local 856, city of Concord, Mount Diablo Unified School District, city of Walnut Creek, and Contra Costa County workers all joined Local 856. And this past June, Local 856 welcomed 1,700 members from the West Contra Costa County Unified School District.
“Under the leadership of our Principal Officer, Peter Finn, the momentum built as each newly organized unit saw what Local 856 can and will do for its members,” Bradfield told the crowd.
“We’ve received higher wages, lower medical costs with better medical coverage, and overall a union that will fight like hell to protect its members. It’s something that we’ve never experienced in the past,” she continued.
Boyer, a 17-year Mount Diablo Unified School District employee, said she was thrilled to represent Local 856 on stage at the conference. Her husband, who works for Contra Costa County, also became a Local 856 member through the recent organizing drives.
“Both my husband and I were raised by Depression-era parents — we were taught not only to work hard, but to be treated fairly,” Boyer told the conference. “As a Teamsters 856 household, we now feel valued, respected, and have dignity thanks to Teamsters.”
In addition to the new members in Contra Costa County, Local 856 has also welcomed hundreds of workers from both the private sector and public sector across the Bay Area who have sought out the aggressive representation that Local 856 provides.
Apart from the general plenary sessions, Local 856 members also took advantage of the multitude of workshops available, including ones on workers’ compensation and social security, political action, and communication. The workshops allowed both longtime and new stewards to cultivate skills that will be helpful in representing members at their worksites.
Contra Costa member Odessa LeFrancois attended a workshop on harassment and discrimination in the workplace.
“It was very informative and dealt with real-life situations, the legalities of harassment, and steps on resolving harassment at different levels,” LeFrancois said.
As a first-time attendee, gathering with so many fellow Teamsters was a high point for longtime UPS steward Debra Caison.
“I really enjoyed the fellowship with other Teamsters,” said Caison. “I met a lot of neat ladies who I can communicate with locally,” she said.
It was City of Fremont steward Lauren Baca’s first time at the conference too.
“As a brand-new steward, I found the Teamsters Women’s Conference very inspiring and motivating,” said Baca.
Marcela Esqueda, who is also a new steward agreed. “I learned that you not only have to have passion, but also dedication,” Esqueda said. “This isn’t a job — it’s a calling. You won’t succeed if you look at it any other way. It’s true.”
A big thank you to the remarkable Teamsters 856 women who took time out of their lives to represent Local 856 at the 2017 Teamsters Women’s Conference:
Lisa Alonso, Eden Medical Center
Julie Ambriz, Contra Costa County
Lauren Baca, City of Fremont
Tamara Boyer, Mount Diablo Unified School District
Rhonda Bustillos Rivera, United Airlines
Debbie Caison, UPS
Lisa Chin, Delta Dental
Patricia Cuevas, West Contra Costa Unified School District
Marcela Esqueda, Northwest Administrators
Janine Jabin-Roach, Northwest Administrators
Melissa Kealoha, UPS
Debbie Krevi, Delta Dental
Deirdre Lopez, Delta Dental
Kathy Newell, Delta Dental
Roberta Patton, Northwest Administrators
Maria Prado, Delta Dental
Odessa LeFrancois, Contra Costa County
Kathleen Romero, Park Central Hotel
Donna Tiffany, American Airlines