Members make the best organizers

New Teamster 856 member Rebecca Hibbs, Public Safety Dispatcher City of Walnut .

New Teamster 856 member Rebecca Hibbs, Public Safety Dispatcher City of Walnut Creek.

Teamsters 856’s membership continues to rise with the addition of more than 1,000 new members through organizing victories over the last year. Since Mount Diablo Unified School District and City of Santa Rosa employees joined last spring, the Local has welcomed five additional groups including new members working for City of Walnut Creek, City of South San Francisco, US Airways/American Airlines, the Northern California Pipe Trades Trust Fund, and the Town of Windsor.

Teamsters 856 members have played a pivotal role in each of these campaigns by becoming member organizers and sharing their real-life Teamster experience.

When City of Walnut Creek public safety dispatchers were considering becoming Teamsters 856 members, Organizing Coordinator Rudy Gonzalez asked City of Concord Steward Pat Hattwick to meet with them.

“There’s no better perspective on what it’s like to be a union member, a Teamster, than that of a current member,” said Gonzalez.

Hattwick is also a public safety dispatcher, so she could directly relate to the Walnut Creek members’ representational needs.

“I was more than pleased to speak with the Walnut Creek dispatchers about what a difference having Teamster representation had made for us,” she said. Nearly 150 City of Concord employees joined Local 856 in 2012.

Hattwick told her Walnut Creek counterparts about the vast resources that would be available to them as Teamsters for negotiations, contract enforcement and beyond.

“We needed experts who knew the ins and outs of labor laws,” said Hattwick. “With Teamsters 856, we have that – it’s like going to court and having the best lawyer represent you.”

Member organizers are also effective at dispelling anti-union rumors, such as misconceptions about strikes. San Francisco Zoo Steward Corey Hallman, who has worked on several organizing campaigns, said he’s able to set the record straight with his own personal experience.

“I tell them my story – that I’ve been a union member for 15 years, how I got involved and the benefits of being a Teamster,” he said.

During the US Airways/American Airlines nationwide campaign last fall, US Airways SFO Steward Ricardo Arias spoke with airline agents about the importance of voting Teamsters yes, not only at his own workplace, but also as he traveled through the Miami airport on his way to visit family.

His 28 years of experience made him well-suited to convey the necessity of having union protection in the notoriously volatile airline industry.

“With such a big corporation, sometimes you feel like you’re just a number,” said Arias. “But as a Teamster, you’re a number with a voice that’s not easily erased,” he said.

Local 856’s newest members, Town of Windsor employees, checked in with City of Santa Rosa 856 member Mike Reynolds before overwhelmingly voting to join the Local in November.

“While strength, resources, and professional representation are certainly determining factors when workers choose to become members of Teamsters 856, it is the direct one-on-one conversations with current members that produce the type of unique personal impact that drives home that they are joining a real, living organization made up of members with the same interests and goals,” said Teamsters 856 Principal Officer Peter Finn.

Member Organizer Hallman, who attended the recent three-day organizing training sponsored by Joint Council 7 with fellow 856 members, Ed Braun, Doris Garcia, Sandro Ramos, and Garrett Savage encourages other members to get involved with organizing.

“It’s a very gratifying experience,” he said. “You’re educating and empowering people at work. Who wouldn’t want to be a part of that?”