Every year, the Teamsters National Black Caucus (TNBC) convenes for their annual conference. This year, for the first time in its 42-year history, the conference was held in Canada – specifically Vancouver, British Columbia.
This year, Teamsters 856 sent Veronica Hudson, a Shop Steward and 26-year Detention Services Worker at the West County Detention Center in Contra Costa County and Terrance Ricks, a Shop Steward and 29-year mechanic at United Airlines to represent the Union at the conference.
The theme of this year’s conference was “Empowerment through Education is the Bridge to the Future.” The keynote addresses from Teamster leaders from around the country, as well as the workshops were designed to provide attendees with education and tools to empower not only themselves, but their colleagues back home.
The conference began less than a week after the hateful, racist, white nationalist protest in Charlottesville, VA, killed one counter-protester and injured others. Because of this, the need to educate and empower conference attendees was palpable as the conference began.
Don Davies, former Director of Legal Services for Teamsters Canada and current member of the Canadian Parliament welcomed everyone to his home city, and addressed what was going on in the United States. “If we concede one inch to those who preach division and inequality, we all suffer,” he said. “But if we join together in mutual respect and support, we all advance.”
From there, the week of events began. Veronica, who attended the conference last year felt the “Education through Empowerment” theme was more important now than ever. “We need to get educated to get more people involved,” she said. “With everything going on now, we need to be empowered and knowledge is power.”
Terrance, a newcomer to the TNBC Conference, was struck by the location and the opportunity to take something back to this fellow mechanics. “I like the beauty of Vancouver,” he said. “The classes gave me the opportunity to learn new things to help me become a better Shop Steward. Now I can educate my coworkers about what we’re all up against.”
The workshops ranged in topic from how to deal with workplace violence to labor law to learning to improving your communications skills.
The communications class, in particular, inspired both Terrance and Veronica. Veronica said she learned about the type of communicator she is, which will help her when addressing management with issues at work.
“Communications class taught me there’s an art to communications that has to be practiced, like singing,” said Terrance. “I plan to work on becoming a more effective communicator to work better with my coworkers and deal with management”
The conference was not only about the workshops, it was about connecting with fellow African American Teamsters from every corner of the U.S. and Canada. At the various breakfasts, luncheons, dinners, and receptions, Black Teamsters were able to come together and talk about what they’re facing on-the-job, and how they can be supportive of one another.
“I enjoyed seeing all the different regions, and meeting fellow members and getting to know them,” said Veronica.
“We need this opportunity to come together for camaraderie and to stand strong together as Teamsters,” echoed Terrance.