A Woman’s Place is In the Teamsters

I’m excited to be at the Teamster Women’s Conference. Let’s take the information and organizing skills we learn here and put them to work building a stronger union—including tearing down the barriers to participation for Teamster women.

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The Women’s Conference is three days of sisterhood, solidarity, and Teamster education. Our union has amazing women, stewards, activists, rank-and-file leaders.

It’s a shame that so much of this talent and power is put in a corner except for one conference a year.

We have just one woman in the International Union leadership—and Hoffa tried to prevent her from taking office. Leadership by women at the local union level is not much better.

Our union’s failure to encourage leadership by women members is a symptom of a bigger problem. Too often, Teamster officials discourage member involvement unless you’re part of the old boys club.

We can do better.

In Rhode Island, we elected new local union leaders that opened up the union to the members.

There was no political litmus test. The new executive board reached out to everyone who was committed to building a stronger union by informing and mobilizing the members.

We won the right to elect our shop stewards and contract negotiating committees. We formed Contract Action Teams to unite and mobilize the members to win good contracts.

At Rhode Island Hospital where I work, women stepped up to help lead the fight to win a good contract and to enforce it.

The slogan of the Teamsters Human Rights Commission is “A strong union involves everyone.” That’s the truth.

Let’s take the information and organizing skills we learn there and put them to work building a stronger union—including tearing down the barriers to participation for Teamster women.

By Brooke Reeves, Recording Secretary Local 251, Rhode Island

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