A steward’s view of the 2011 annual membership appreciation meeting

By Terry Post, Bode Gravel

Local 853’s 12th Annual Membership Appreciation Meeting was bigger and more diverse than ever. It was standing room only as more than 1,000 members, spouses, children, retirees, officers and staff gathered for free flu shots, free shirts, coffee and donuts, raffle prizes, a dose of solidarity, a chance to see old friends and meet new ones and, of course, to hear Secretary- Treasurer Rome Aloise’s annual State-ofthe- Union address.

Unfortunately, the social, economic and political environment currently impacting the membership lent a rather somber tone to this year’s meeting. Every Local 853 member has been hit hard by Wall Street’s destruction of the economy and corporate America’s War on Workers. In response, workers across the country have fought back with electoral victories in Ohio and Wisconsin and direct action in solidarity with the Occupy Wall Street Movement. Amid this chaos, many Teamsters were looking to Aloise for guidance, answers and, most of all, leadership. Rome did not disappoint them.

War on Workers

“I want you to know there’s a war on workers going on here,” Rome proclaimed, “and it’s not just against public sector workers. We’ve got employers coming after us. (They) think because society thinks its okay to go after those public sector workers, then it must be okay to go after you, too. Without a union ... workers are getting killed.”

Rome warned the membership not to take what they have for granted.

“Are you ready to fight to keep what you’ve got?” he asked.

“YES!” the crowd responded defiantly.

Rome didn’t just leave it at that. He gave the members statistics showing that workers’ wages were in decline while CEOs amassed huge salary increases, 550 times more than the average worker. He detailed exactly who controls the wealth in this country, with the shocking statistic that, in 2010, the top one percent of Americans owned 42.7 percent of the wealth.

Occupy Wall Street

As we have come to expect over the years, Rome did what few labor leaders in this country have had the courage to do; he challenged his members.

“Are you outraged that health care costs are out of control?” Rome yelled into the microphone.

“Are you outraged that pensions are under attack?”

“Are you outraged the corporations are sitting on more cash than at anytime in history while millions of able-bodied workers are out of work and can’t find a job?”

“Are you outraged that, for the first time in this country’s history, our children ... can’t have the kind of lifestyle that we have, and they may never have a house or a pension?”

Each time Rome threw questions out onto the floor, the members responded louder and louder. There was a pause ...

“Then you should support the Occupy Wall Street Movement!” Rome shouted.

“We have to incorporate the message of Occupy Wall Street so it becomes part of what our political movement is,” Rome told the membership.

Rome concluded by urging members to get involved by supporting the Occupy Wall Street Movement, coming to the aid of fellow workers during labor disputes, registering to vote, joining DRIVE, and volunteering during elections. Most importantly, he urged members to put aside personal issues, particularly conservative ones, that actually help to keep workers down. The crowd erupted in approval.

This is why Local 853 is special and why the annual membership appreciation meeting is so well attended (aside from all the free stuff). We have a diverse, dedicated and knowledgeable membership that sincerely cares about its union, isn’t afraid to fight and never hesitates to respond to their leadership. A nd, of course, we have leadership that respects and appreciates the membership.

Once again, this is a very, very special labor organization, one I am extremely proud to be part of.

See pictures from the 2011 Membership Appreciation Meeting.

 

Connections

Volume XI, Number 2
December 2011

Battling VWR

Sisters in Solidarity

Stewards' Seminar