July 12, 2007: By Joe Sexauer, Local 743: After five months without a contract, over 1,000 janitors, clerks, and maintenance Teamsters at the University of Chicago are still fighting hard for better wages and benefits. We’re members of Teamsters Local 743.
Our local leaders haven’t organized a contract campaign, so rank-and-file members decided to organize a campaign on our own.
First, we started by organizing on-site lunch meetings, where union members can come together and talk about getting a better contract.
After our on-site lunch meetings drew over a hundred members, we decided to have a BBQ after work for people with short lunches—and it was a huge success. Many of our members are in the dark, and they want answers.
Now that members are angry, Local 743 leaders are taking notice. They say they are going to start a contract campaign of their own. We say better late than never.
That’s progress. During our last contract, it took our local leaders twelve months after the contract expired to schedule the first contract meeting—off-site and after work, on the day the ballots went out for local union office.
Gone in 60 Seconds
A few members who went to the lunch meetings decided to go to the local’s June meeting, and see what was up.
The meeting lasted 60 seconds—no discussion of grievances, contracts, or anything we care about, the only motion was to cancel the meeting by Business Agent Harold Johnson. Then they voted to cancel meetings for the summer.
One worker went to discuss our expired contract, but the local leaders told her there wasn’t a place for that. “A waste of time and gas,” she said.
Some Good News
743 members are starting to take responsibility for our union on our own—with or without the help of our business agents.
At the UofC, our meetings are drawing fifty people at a time—on campus, during our lunch breaks.
The Department of Labor is conducting an election for officers of Local 743 this fall because the incumbents stole the last election and shredded the records. Change is coming to Local 743.