Teamster Volunteer Organizers help working people. Will you help too?
Our union regularly holds training sessions for members interested in taking on a volunteer organizers role during our union’s organizing campaigns. Kathleen Brennan, a member of the San Bernardino County Information Services Department, was a volunteer organizer during the initial interaction between San Bernardino County PSD employees and Teamsters Local 1932. Below is an interview with Kathleen about her experience.
Why did you get involved as a Volunteer Organizer?
I wanted an opportunity to help real working people, talk one-on-one, and explain to them why a union is important at work. At PSD, these wonderful people didn’t even have a grievance process in place — they were completely at will. Being able to help them get what we had already, and then improving their lives, it was amazing.
What were some of the obstacles once you actually were talking to these folks?
A lot of people don’t know their rights. Some were afraid of retaliation — “Hey, if someone sees me out here talking to you guys I might get in trouble.” I’d say, “Well, if you guys all stand together, they’re not going to come after all of you.” That was the whole point; trying to explain to them the idea of solidarity, and having each other’s backs, and everyone standing together.
Tell me about what you learned at Volunteer Organizers training sessions.
Most people don’t even know what the union stands for. They know what they think they know because of the narrative that’s been out there for the last 20, 30 years, which is, “Unions are bad. They just want your money. They just want your dues.” And they don’t even know that the 8-hour work day, the 40-hour work week, OSHA, they don’t know all these things came from unions. Whether or not you belong to a union or not, you actually benefit from everything unions did prior. So, I learned to help people understand that, and understand what the unions really stand for, because it’s important. A grievance process, no longer being at will, having a contract that protects your job — you don’t have that without a union. We need to spread the word.
How did it feel once enough PSD workers signed cards to unionize?
It felt really good to know that you were able to give somebody an opportunity at a better life. And not just their life, but their kids’ lives, their grandkids’ lives. Because my dad was union, my grandfather was union, and I know the far-reaching impact of that; having the ability for me to be able to go to a doctor when I was a child. I was clumsy. I always fell down and broke bones. I was always in the hospital. If my dad didn’t have those great health benefits, then it’d be bad news. But, just knowing that we were able to impact the lives of PSD workers, and their kids, their grandkids — it’s very rewarding. Knowing that I got to help is probably one of the best feelings I’ve had in my entire life.
And now that this contract has been ratified?
It’s amazing! They deserve that and then some. I know it’s just one step in the right direction, and from here, it’s only going to get better for them.
Contact Training Coordinator Natalie Harts at nharts@teamsters1932 to attend our next Volunteer Organizers Training Sessions.