856 Represents at the Summer Institute on Union Women

The 2016 856 Delegation to the Summer Institute on Union Women in Los Angeles.

The 2016 856 Delegation to the Summer Institute on Union Women in Los Angeles.

Applying to attend the Summer Institute on Union Women on behalf of Teamsters 856 was way out of Sunny Joy Boyer’s comfort zone. Boyer describes herself as somewhat of a “lone wolf” as much of her work as a custodian at the Brentwood Health Clinic is done solo, so attending the four-day conference in Los Angeles surrounded by hundreds of union members is a huge departure from her daily life of work and spending time with her family. But as a new Teamster – Boyer and her colleagues at Contra Costa County voted to become Local 856 members earlier this year – she wanted to get involved in her union, and attending the Summer Institute seemed like a good way to get started.

At the conference, Boyer would be joined by her Teamsters 856 sisters, Lynette Adams (Delta Dental), Eileen Attridge (American Airlines) Melissa Kealoha (UPS), and Mahalia LeClerc, (Edgewood Center for Children and Families).

When Boyer arrived, she knew she had made the right decision. “It was awesome, I had never been to anything like that, so it was huge,” she said. “Everyone knows who the Teamsters are, so it was a big source of pride to introduce myself as a member.”

LeClerc and Attridge also come from bargaining units that are new to Teamster representation.

“When the American Airlines (AA) Passenger Service group voted in the Teamsters last year, I never imagined that a year later I would not only be a Steward of my work group but an attendee of the 2016 Summer Institute on Union Women,” said Attridge.

“The opportunity to meet with other Union members was incredible and with other women was astounding. To meet like-minded women who were united in both union issues and women issues was a life-changing experience,” she said. (Check out Eileen’s first-person account of her experience at the SIUW here!)

The women chose from a variety of workshops and core classes to attend, including those on wage theft, social media, and electoral and political organizing. The attendees also joined a picket line at El Super, a supermarket where management is attempting thwart a union organizing drive.

Kealoha’s employer, UPS, may not be new to Teamster representation, but as a fairly new member herself, she wanted to learn more about getting active at Local 856, so her shop steward encouraged her to apply to attend. “It’s not enough to just pay dues,” Kealoha said. “It’s important to educate yourself and know what you’re talking about, otherwise management will try to walk all over you.”

“The experience was so rewarding and humbling,” said Boyer. “I was so lucky to be a part of it. Everyone was incredibly welcoming and non-judgmental. It didn’t matter who you were, or what you did for a living, we all had two things in common: we were all women and all union members fighting for dignity and respect on the job.”

“I came back stronger.”