Staying Teamster-strong through COVID-19

We are experiencing unprecedented and historic times. None of us have seen anything like this pandemic and hopefully, we won’t have to experience it again. The threat of COVID-19 is something that many of us didn’t really take seriously at first. As the virus spread, and our political leaders started to acknowledge its seriousness, our world, as we know it, has experienced incredible changes.

Many of our members are working long hours making sure essential items are in place for the general public and for medical facilities. Our sisters and brothers are, in some cases, putting themselves in harm’s way to make sure they are providing the service that they were hired to do, and are stepping up in these uncertain times. Many have worked so many hours that when they are off work and trying to get the necessities for themselves and their families, everything is gone. They are truly heroes. Teamsters have stepped up as we always do to take care of the public and their families.  I am extremely proud of our members.

In fact, Governor Newsom acknowledged the Teamsters Union and our members for doing extraordinary work. We have been successful in getting many of the companies that are still open and deemed “essential” to give some type of hazard pay or bonuses while our members must meet these extraordinary demands.

On the other end, we also have many members who have been laid off, as their companies have been forced to shut down either by the government edict or because their industries have been adversely affected by local or statewide “stay in place” orders. This, of course, is devastating for our members and their families.

We have been working with each company to figure out how to keep checks coming into our members’ households. We have been able to push numerous employers to continue compensation for a limited amount of time. Others have agreed to allow the use of sick leave, vacation, or other PTOs to supplement unemployment benefits. Many of you have been getting hazardous or hero pay while working. This has all come about by the union working with many of your employers. Of course, some employers are, as of yet, unwilling to do anything.

It is amazing that some of our employers have acted so responsibly while others seem oblivious to what is happening and how it affects their workers. We intend to keep pounding away at the employers who are not cooperating and work with those who are.

Here are answers to some frequently-asked questions:

Pension: Even with the horrendous drops and dives of the stock market, the Western Conference of Teamsters Pension Trust Fund is in good shape and at no risk.

Health Benefits: Numerous employers have extended health benefits for part or all of the time many of our members have not been working. For those who need health benefits and are covered by Teamster plans, waivers may be available—depending on your plan. Please check with your health plan to find out what the plan is doing to provide coverage during the period you are not working.

401K Accounts: If you are in the SIP 401(k) plan, your investments have probably plummeted due to this uncertain stock market. I cannot give you investment advice, but I can tell you what I have done: I don’t look at mine. Selling off when the market is down is bad, as it makes it difficult to reclaim what has been lost. I am just going to let it ride and hope that once things straighten out, the market will come back as it has before.

Unfortunately, we have lost at least two Teamsters to the virus. We mourn the loss of our brothers Pedro Zuniga, a member of Local 439 who worked at the Tracy Safeway Distribution Center, and Emmanuel Gomez, a Local 2010 member who worked at UCLA. Our Teamster family offers our sincere condolences and sympathies to their families.

Please be safe, take care of yourself and your family, and know that by sticking together, assisting each other, and following the rules, we will all get through this. This is what Teamsters do!

Rome Aloise, President