Teamsters Women’s Conference Meets in Minneapolis
More than 750 Teamster women from throughout North America gathered in Minneapolis Thursday for the 10th annual Teamsters Women’s Conference. The three-day conference will feature an array of notable speakers, educational workshops, opportunities for networking, a march through downtown Minneapolis in support of good jobs and much more. View more photos from the conference.
Minneapolis is a fitting location for this year’s conference whose theme is, “Teamster Women: Proud of the Past, Prepared for the Future.” This city was shaped by the struggles of brave Teamsters. In 1934, Teamster truck drivers fearlessly stood up for their rights to union recognition in a long and bloody strike. They were up against the employers’ organization, called the Citizens Alliance, and police who fired and killed unarmed strikers. Women played a key role in providing services, raising funds and supporting the strikers and the success of the strike grew the Teamsters Union ranks and led to the passage of key pro-worker legislation.
“The strike started about a mile from here. Those workers built power. You’re building power. Teamster women are building power because we need power for the working people in this country,” said C. Thomas Keegel, Teamsters General Secretary-Treasurer. “We need to hold our leaders accountable and restore the American Dream and the American middle class.”
“Minneapolis is a strong union town, but it wasn’t always this way,” said Sue Mauren, Director of the Teamsters Women’s Conference, President of Joint Council 32 and Secretary-Treasurer of Local 320 in Minneapolis. “Teamsters took a stand here and we need to take a stand against Wall Street and anyone who thinks that working people aren’t going to be a part of an economic recovery.”
Taking Back the Middle Class
The economy is a major focus of the annual conference as American workers face nearly 10 percent unemployment, increased costs of living, the loss of retirement savings and home foreclosures.
“We’re on the verge of getting out of a ditch, but things aren’t moving as fast as we’d like. With these midterm elections, they want the keys back to the car. We’re fuel to these vehicles and we can’t sit on the sidelines,” said Al Mixon, International Vice President At Large and Chair of the Teamsters National Black Caucus, which recently held its 35th annual conference in Washington, D.C. “As bad as things are, we’re still ahead of the curve because we are Teamsters.”
Mixon noted that the “great equalizer,” also known as a Teamster contract, brings opportunity to workers regardless or race or gender. Therefore, the key to equality in the workplace is to organize more workers, and he called on the Teamster women in the room to do their part to organize.
Mixon was one among numerous International Vice Presidents who were in attendance the first day of this conference, including Vice Presidents Brad Slawson, Fred Gegare, George Tedeschi and Robert Bouvier.
Minnesota Attorney General Lori Swanson also spoke to the receptive audience about the state of the economy. The state’s first female attorney general talked about the economic crisis, mortgage crisis and consumer credit crisis and said, “Your work has never been more important, Teamsters!” while proudly donning her Teamster jacket.
The event drew from the rank-and-file membership, local officers and new Teamsters alike. Several clerical workers in the University of California system spoke about their recent vote to join the Teamsters. The 14,000 Coalition of University Employees (CUE) workers at 11 campuses in the university system recently affiliated with the Teamsters, making Local 2010 a newly chartered Teamster local.
And technical workers at Ascension Genesys medical centers in Michigan told their stories of determination and dedication in fighting for their rights on the job, including fair treatment and a secure retirement. Their struggles are detailed on the website www.stopascensionabuses.com
Brigitte Sotille, Director of Education at Teamsters Canada, lightened the mood with a witty and engaging talk about International Women’s Day and ideas for events Teamster women can plan to become more active in their union and in their communities.
Tracey Ellis-Turner, “Tracey the Storyteller,” performed the story of a woman telling her daughter, Rosie, about women’s history in the work force and the union. Her inspirational song about fair practices and work rules sung to the tune of Gloria Gaynor’s, “I Will Survive,” brought the crowd to its feet.
The message her daughter learned in the end was, “If women get together and organize, there’s nothing they can’t do.”
The 2010 Teamsters Women’s Conference continues Friday with a keynote speech from Teamsters General President James P. Hoffa and a major “Workers ‘Yes’, Wall Street ‘No’” themed march and rally through the heart of downtown Minneapolis.