National Teamster conference inspires local action

From bottom left going clockwise: Shaune Vaughn (Delta Dental), Tracey Walker (Contra Costa County), Evalyn Rushing (Contra Costa County), Preston Enis (Contra Costa County Connection), Monica Byrd (West Contra Costa Unified School District), Veronica Hudson (Contra Costa County), and center, Janice Grant (West Contra Costa Unified School District)

Every year, the Teamsters National Black Caucus (TNBC) Conference brings together members from around the United States and Canada.

This year, a contingent of seven Teamsters 856 members from Delta Dental, West Contra Costa Unified School District, Contra Costa County, and Contra Costa County Connection represented the local at the conference in Houston, Texas.

The TNBC conference is an opportunity for African American Teamsters to gather together, learn from each other, and take what they’ve learned back to their local union.

Evalyn Rushing is a new Teamsters 856 shop steward at Contra Costa County. She was inspired by this year’s conference theme: “Building Pathways for the Next Generation.”

“I will take what I have learned to engage and empower myself and others as I travel down this road so that as we mobilize, we have the optimum goal of reaching the younger generation,” she said.

Evalyn and the rest of the Local 856 attendees attended workshops and heard from dynamic guest speakers, including Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee and John Phelan — a retired Teamster who helped form the TNBC more than 45 years ago at the first conference in Chicago.

John Phelan is a retired Teamster who helped start the TNBC more than 45 years ago.

Overall, this year’s TNBC conference was a reminder that Teamsters do not work in a vacuum. Members were able to build lasting connections, and use their experience as workplace leaders and stewards to strategize and help each other with issues they’re facing at work. “My pathway was gravel when I arrived, but I’m going home with it paved,” remarked Evalyn. “I now realize I have a freight train of brothers and sisters behind me”.

The opportunity to unite and learn more about their union, receive leadership training, and hear about issues facing union members, has had a lasting impact on the Local 856 members who attended the conference.

Since she returned home, Janice Grant, a Local 856 shop steward for West Contra Costa Unified School District has registered seven people to vote. She said the idea to always have voter registration forms with her was sparked after conversations she had with fellow Teamsters at the conference. “I know how important the upcoming election is,” she said. “It makes me want to gather our members together to be a part of the big picture to make everybody’s life better.”

Members are also working to bring what they learned at the TNBC to the local level.

Next month, Teamsters 856 members are invited to a TNBC Chapter Introduction Meeting to discuss starting a Northern California Chapter of the Teamsters National Black Caucus.

If you are interested in attending, please click here to RSVP.