COVID and politics both impact our members

By Rome Aloise —

In an effort to stem the increasing COVID-19 infections and to hang on until the vaccines became available, most public jurisdictions within Joint Council 7’s geographic area are again mandating shutdowns. For a while, it looked like the infections were subsiding and perhaps we were seeing a light at the end of the tunnel. Unfortunately, that was not the case. I have again required the Joint Council to move back to shut-down stages.

Unfortunately, many of you are either still out of work, or are being laid off again, and many of you again have to face an uncertain future, one without the U.S. Congress doing anything to put more money into your hands in the form of enhanced unemployment insurance. There is no excuse for playing politics with the lives of millions of people across the country, forcing them to choose between eating and rent, medical bills, and keeping a roof over their heads.

While the whole political process is to blame, the Republicans are responsible for the obstruction tactics.  Senator Mitch McConnell stands in the way of bringing relief to all of you, to small businesses that are on the brink of extinction, to large businesses that need special incentives to continue to pay wages and benefits to their workers, and even possibly from getting the funds necessary to provide vaccines to the general public. It is unbelievable that this man and his followers can put us all in jeopardy in order to continue to make the 1% richer and destroy what is left of the working class.

I won’t get started on the President who rightfully lost the election, who lied to us all about the seriousness of the virus, who failed to provide a safe way to fight the disease, and who now, along with his Republican followers, cannot admit defeat and is attempting to undermine the very democratic process we follow in our country. Remember this in elections to come.

To finish my rant about politics, we all worked very hard to defeat Proposition 22, which wasn’t really about Uber and Lyft, but about the ability of a super-rich corporation to buy laws through the proposition process. This sets a horrible precedent for the future, and although we lost, our members in Northern California responded strongly and voted the right way. However, by spending a quarter of a billion dollars, the companies bought the election. We did have many favorable outcomes due to the hard work of many of you. You will be able to read about those elsewhere in this paper.

Teamsters are essential year-round

This has been a most difficult year. We have an abundance of members who are essential workers—keeping people fed, supplied with medicine, household products, and all of the other things that keep us alive and keep our economy moving.

I thank our members at UPS, all of our beverage, beer, and liquor members, members in healthcare, warehouse, construction, food service, and many, many more. Without Teamsters, our country could not have survived and will not survive as we move into more unchartered waters.  I have never been prouder to be the President of what is the most active, progressive, and hard-working Joint Council in the country.

Pension plan is strong

There are some bright spots in 2020. Those of us who are covered by the Western Conference of Teamster Pension Plan realized a big return last year, and with all the craziness this year, it was touch and go, but it looks like we will have another year that exceeds our actuarial assumption. We expect the fund to hit $48 billion dollars, with over $2 billion dollars of benefits paid in 2020 to our retirees.

As you know many pension plans around the nation are in trouble. You can rest assured that your pension is safe and sound. Most, if not all of our health and welfare plans had small rate increases and many of our funds covered our laid-off members and their families for certain periods of time due to COVID-19 related layoffs.

Supporting victims of wildfires

The Joint Council, along with our International, was again able to help members and their families who were affected by the devastation of wildfires, some for a second time. Our Locals and the Joint Council have made contributions to many charitable agencies that help families living in our communities who need a hand. 

Joint Council elections

Our Joint Council had nominations for another four-year leadership term in October. Following the constitution and long-standing precedents and interpretations, a new board was elected and will take office in February 2021. Both the current and newly-elected Executive Boards would like to thank all the Local Union delegates who participated in the process, followed the rules, and understood the value of not allowing divisive politics to interfere with the rules and regulations that we all must follow to keep our Joint Council and our union great.

Happy New Year! 

Finally, I want to wish all of you and your families a happy and healthy New Year. We hope for a year that holds the promise of health for everyone, and an economy that moves upwards and gets all of our members back to work.

Our unity and our support for each other got us through this tough year and will make the future great. 

Jason Rabinowitz, President