By Rome Aloise —
Finally, some upbeat news to report after a year of pandemic shutdown and horror stories about the over 500,000 deaths in our country from COVID—too many of them our members. We’ve seen story after story about the hardships many of you have had to endure due to the COVID collateral damage to jobs, the economy, and to many of the companies you work for. However, things are finally looking up.
Members who have been out of work are being called back. A sense of “normal” is coming back, with restaurants opening, movies, sporting events, and the like, emerging from the shutdown, all of which supports our members who work in those industries. With vaccines being distributed at a higher rate, hopefully by the summer, we will be able to move forward and put this horrible time behind us.
Pension save finally passes Congress and gets signed into law
For those members who ask “what good is my vote,” recent events should start to answer that for you. For the last two decades, the Teamsters Union, under the Hoffa administration, has been trying to find a solution to shore up the many endangered pension plans across the country. This affected retirees and members who were still working and making on-going contributions toward those plans. The solution we fought for—the Butch Lewis Act—is finally law.
Of course, most members in Joint Council 7 are covered by the Western Conference of Teamsters Pension Trust Fund. This plan, which takes care of more than 500,000 retirees and active members, has never been in trouble and is flourishing with more than $50 billion in assets. However, other pension plans, some of which affected our GCIU sisters and brothers, were on the verge of being insolvent.
For years, the leadership of our union sought to save the endangered pensions. We may have struggled internally as to how, but everyone had the same goal: to save the pensions for our members across the country.
I must admit, I had my doubts that the government would ever do the right thing and save the promise of retirement for millions of union workers. I am glad to say that my doubts were proven wrong when our new President, keeping his campaign promise to us when the Teamsters endorsed him, included pension legislation in the American Rescue Plan. Despite the fact that every Republican voted against your pension, the Butch Lewis Act passed and became law on Thursday, March 11, 2021. This will save the retirement of millions of workers whose pensions were devastated by company bankruptcies and closures, corporate greed, and the problem of having more retirees than active members.
Strengthening Workers’ Rights
A second promise that Biden made was to update and improve labor laws that have not been amended in any significant way in 80 years and were made much worse during the Trump administration.
In March, the House passed the Protecting the Right to Organize Act or PRO Act. This crucial law was passed along party lines, with only a few Republicans supporting workers’ rights to organize and form a union. The PRO Act is now before the Senate. Passage will be a huge lift, as it needs support from 10 Republican senators.
For those of you who came into our union by going through an organizing campaign, you know how difficult it was to endure the range of employer threats designed to fool you into giving up your rights. This legislation will actually put teeth into labor law and fine employers for violations of that law while giving unions more equal access to the workers.
Most importantly, the PRO Act will guarantee a first contract for workers who vote for union representation. In the past, workers would vote to join a union and the employer knew they would suffer no penalties even if they violated the law to avoid negotiating a contract. With passage of this law, first-time contracts will be mandated. This is huge! If workers know they will get a contract, they will vote for a union, and employer threats will be hollow.
As a union member, your first concern when voting should be your ability to make a decent living, support your family, have decent healthcare, and a pension that allows you to retire with dignity and enjoy the fruits of your labor. Nothing is more important than your livelihood when you vote! While we’ve surely suffered some major disappointments from Democrats, we saw during the Trump years that the Republicans are out to destroy your rights as a worker, from Right to Work laws to defunding the NLRB, to deliberate attempts to destroy our pensions. Remember this when you vote.
In closing, I welcome our new Joint Council 7 Executive Board, which took office on February 1, 2021.
Rome Aloise, President (Local 853)
Dave Hawley, Secretary-Treasurer (Local 137)
Carlos Borba, Vice President (Local 315)
Peter Nunez, Recording Secretary (Local 431)
Jason Rabinowitz, Trustee (Local 2010)
Jeff Berdion, Trustee (Local 386)
John Bouchard, Trustee (Local 350)
The Board is well-diversified both by the industries where our members work and geographically. We will continue to be one of the most respected Joint Councils in the Teamsters Union.
Please stay healthy, continue to follow the protocols until we rid ourselves of COVID, and move forward into a new, somewhat changed, life.
“After the Plague comes the Renaissance.”