June 8, 2007: University of Chicago Teamsters are organizing a grassroots contract campaign to win better wages and benefits.
The Local 743 contract with the University expired on Feb. 28, 2007, but the local has extended the contract covering over 1,000 Teamsters.
Our local officials are sitting on the sidelines—they haven’t done anything to win us a stronger contract.
Taking Matters into Our Own Hands
Bypassing the union bureaucracy, Teamsters at the UofC have taken matters into our own hands.
We’ve organized meetings throughout the campus to educate ourselves on the contract.
Over fifty members attended one of the meetings—that’s several times the size of a typical local meeting.
“My one voice doesn’t matter too much, but all of us members have a strong, collective voice together,” said Sydney Simmons, a steward for service and maintenance workers at the University of Chicago.
“Many of the business agents are in the university’s pocket and it’s no good for the membership,” said active union member Glenda Pence. “The current BA doesn’t even return my call.”
Members are meeting with each other to talk about what tactics would be most effective with their co-workers, and what the university would respond to.
“Voting No on the contract is one way to show your dissatisfaction with what we get,” said Adrian Esquivel. “It will send a message to the union and the university that the members want more.”
Sometimes discussion at these meetings also turns towards the corruption in our local, and our upcoming election.
In 2004, after the New Leadership Slate won the local election, the current officers allegedly stole several hundred ballots in a do-over election that Hoffa called. While the Department of Labor lawsuit is still in court, many are looking to the fall to finally clean up this local.
When we get fair, supervised elections this fall, the members will finally have an opportunity to vote in better people, instead of the corrupt officers currently in power.
If we can already involve more people in their contract than the officials can, imagine what we can do leading the local union.
Joe Sexauer is a Local 743 member at the University of Chicago