Increasing the size and effectiveness both of Joint Council 7 and its 20 Locals that span Northern California, the Central Valley, and Northern Nevada, was precisely the goal of JC7’s recent seminar in South Lake Tahoe. The 9th Annual JC7 Seminar had skipped two years, due to the pandemic, but, as JC7 President Jason Rabinowitz told the largest Seminar to date, “it’s great to be back in person.”
Starting with a plan
Even before the Seminar began, JC7’s Executive Board met for a day-long strategic planning session led by former IBT educator Sally Payne. “I’ve led a lot of these sessions for local unions, but this is the first time that a Joint Council is engaging in this process.”
The inimitable Yogi Berra once said, “If you don’t know where you are going, you’ll end up someplace else.” The purpose of a strategic plan is for the Joint Council to set a vision and goals and create the action steps to get there. The Board came up with a vision, a mission statement, and action steps for six key goals to build both the Joint Council and the locals—education, communication, organizing, funding, politics, and unity.
In August, the Board will meet in Modesto with the Principal Officers of all 20 locals to review and refine the plan, with an eye toward building consensus and setting it in motion.
Hearing from labor leadership
Newly-elected International Vice-President and Local 856 Principal Officer Peter Finn was the opening speaker. He thanked the Business Reps in the audience for their commitment, work at the bargaining table, and taking phone calls at all hours of the day. “Your dedication is making a real difference for our Teamster members, and that is what it’s all about.”
His goal for the IBT is to facilitate better communication and coordination among local unions that share the same employers and represent members in similar industries. “We’ve got to make sure that both big locals and small ones, both rural and urban, have access to all of the IBT resources that are available.”
IBT General President Sean O’Brien addressed the meeting by video. “We’ll work with every Joint Council to ensure that we work to the benefit of our rank and file membership,” he said. “I look forward to coming out and seeing Joint Council 7 soon.”
Former assemblymember Lorena Gonzalez, who will take the helm of the California Labor Federation in July, talked about how gig economy companies like Uber, Lyft, and Amazon, are an existential threat to every one of us. “Make no mistake—they all have UPS in their sights.” However, on a positive note, she added that “this is an exciting time for labor. Over 70% of young people want a union in their workplace.”
Promoting organizing and training
“As workers from Amazon to Starbucks to Amy’s Kitchen to the University of California are seeing every day—it’s only when we stand together in a union that we have the power to take on greedy employers and win fairness for workers,” Rabinowitz told the group in his opening speech. “Our Locals are organizing, but we have to step it up, especially around Amazon.”
Leading the charge was the IBT’s new Director of Organizing Chris Rosell, a former UPSer who directed the organizing campaigns at Local 856. Rosell led a panel on “organizing in the digital age.”
The seminar also focused on training. Being a good Business Rep means knowing how to negotiate contracts, handle grievances, and counsel members on their health care and retirement plans. All of these issues were covered in great detail in workshops and panels.
With the all-important 2022 mid-term elections bearing down on us, another Seminar theme was “Politics matter.” Having labor-friendly people in political office makes a huge difference—from the new leadership at the National Labor Relations Board to political leverage that bolsters all of our organizing efforts.
The power of being together
No one can overestimate the power of being together, sharing ideas and experiences, learning from one another, and watching the Warriors win together!