TV winner

Tenth Annual Membership Appreciation Meeting is Biggest Yet

Saturday, November 7, 2009, marked the tenth anniversary of Teamsters Local 853’s Annual Membership Appreciation Meeting. Ten years ago, 200 members attended. This year, there were more than 700.

Obviously, anytime 700 Teamsters show up for a union meeting, something special is about to happen. But, then again, Local 853 isn’t your typical local and the Annual Membership Appreciation Meeting isn’t your typical union meeting.

At 6 a.m., Local 853 officers, business representatives, staff and stewards arrived at San Leandro’s John Muir Junior High School, blurry-eyed, clutching steaming cups of coffee, to set-up chairs and tables, hook-up the sound system and unload all the gifts and raffle prizes that make the annual meeting so popular. About 8 a.m., the morning calm was broken as the parking lot began to fill with cars, trucks and motorcycles—Local 853’s members, anticipating another great event, were arriving.

Following registration, every member received a Local 853 shirt and a tote bag containing a coffee mug, water bottle, key ring and other items, all adorned with the Teamster logo, of course. That was just the start. Later, after the speeches, there would be a spirited raffle for TV’s, ipods, DVD players, jackets, gift certificates, liquor (a new item this year) and sweatshirts.

Amid the wave of blue Teamster jackets were retirees, like former Local 853 Vice-Presidents Phil Tarantino and Pete Gemma, who showed up to touch base with old friends and coworkers, reminisce about past struggles and lend support to their union. “Rome has done a terrific job with this Local,” Pete noted, understating the obvious, as he does so eloquently.

Following Local 853 Vice President John Becker’s introduction of officers, staff and other notables to the crowd, Jack Peasley conducted a power point presentation about DRIVE (Democrat, Republican, Independent Voter Education), the IBT’s political action committee. He stressed the need for members not only to join DRIVE, but to get active in changing laws in favor of labor and protecting good labor laws that already exist. Brother Peasley noted, however, that, despite DRIVE’s success, only about eight percent of all Teamsters are members.

San Leandro Mayor Anthony “Tony” Santos spoke to the membership about his family’s proud labor background and his ongoing relationship with San Leandrobased Local 853. Mayor Santos predicted that union construction jobs could be created immediately if stimulus money flowed directly from the federal government to the local level rather than going through the state level first. Mayor Santos received a loud burst of approval when he stressed the importance of keeping big non-union stores, like Wal-Mart, out of San Leandro.

Finally, Local 853 Secretary-Treasurer Rome Aloise was introduced, followed by a standing ovation from the appreciative members. Rome gave his annual “State of the Union” address, noting that, while we were assembled to celebrate Local 853, 1,000 members were currently out of work due to the struggling economy. Rome, who, since the last Membership Appreciation Meeting, has become President of Joint Council 7, and Western Region Vice-President, gave one of his best speeches, apparently energized by the large, enthusiastic turnout. According to Rome, the state of Local 853 is good as we continue to grow in strength, power and influence.

Following Rome’s speech, the long awaited raffle took place, culminating in one very happy member winning a 50-inch TV and home theater system.

Local 853’s 2009 Annual Appreciation Meeting was the biggest so far, adding credence to speculation that we would have to find a larger venue as the Local continues to grow. More impressive than the numbers was the pride and the energy the members brought with them. This was REAL pride and REAL energy; the kind of pride and energy that fuels the best Local in the International Brotherhood of Teamsters.

By Terry Post, Steward, Bode Gravel