Meet Carol Owens: One of Local 856’s dedicated car rental industry shop stewards

Carol Owens has worked for Alamo National at Oakland International Airport for 18 years and has been a dedicated Teamsters 856 shop steward for 10 of those years.

She’s been with the company through mergers and buyouts and has seen and learned a lot. After nearly two decades with the car rental company, Carol values the familial culture she and her co-workers have cultivated at work. She also takes extreme pride in the work she does and is no stranger to going above and beyond for a colleague or customer in need.

This interview has been edited and condensed. 

Carol Owens has been a Local 856 shop steward at Alamo National in Oakland International Airport for 10 years.

How did you get started at Alamo National?
I’ve been working here for 18 years. I first got started as a Hiker when a young lady in my old neighborhood told me about the job and encouraged me to apply. They hired me and I’ve been here ever since.

You started as a Hiker. What do you do now?
Now I’m an Exit Booth Agent and I work in Returns. I’ve gotten to do everything: Driver, Return Agent, Rental Agent. It’s exciting! I enjoy working with the customers and my co-workers. We’re like family. You have to have fun where you work. We all try to help one another and come together. That’s what it’s all about.

In addition to your day-to-day work, you’re also a Teamsters 856 Shop Steward. How’d you get started as a steward?
I’ve been a shop steward for 10 years. Another steward was leaving and recommended me to take on the role. It made sense, because I’m a people person and I enjoy helping people. It’s been rewarding to be the person my co-workers can come to when they need help. I try hard to always find a way to get them the information they need and help them out.

What do you feel is the role of a shop steward at work?
My role as a shop steward is to make sure everyone is okay: pay is right, management is treating us right, co-workers are getting along, and to make sure everyone is happy.

Why do you think is it important for you and your co-workers to have a union?
Because we all want to be treated fairly. We want to make sure that we have the resources to help us when things don’t go right. As union members, we’re able to secure pay raises and fair treatment.

Why are you proud to be a member of Teamsters 856?
If we didn’t have a union we wouldn’t have job security. As union members, we’re protected. The union is number one for me.

What’s a workday like for you?
I get here very early — like the crack of dawn at 5 a.m. I get my computer, log on, open the keys, find the cars, and start returning cars.

What gives you the most pride in your work?
Helping people. I remember a time when I was here early in the morning and a woman returned her car. She had four babies with her and she was by herself. She needed help and a ride to the airport. I called my manager to make sure I was able to take her because no one else was here. She was really thankful because there was no other way for her to get to the airport.

What’s life like for you outside of work?
Well, I live in Berkeley, and I like to jog, go to the gym, watch comedy shows, go bowling. I have four kids: three boys and one girl. My oldest is 32 and my youngest is 24.