By Terry Post
Local 853’s 2015 Annual Membership Appreciation Meeting was one of the largest and most successful gatherings to date. There were, of course, the big screen TV’s, Teamster jackets, t-shirts and hats, flu vaccines, sugary (is there any other kind?) donuts, hot coffee and all the rest we have come to expect after dragging ourselves out of a warm bed on a chilly November morning.
This year, however, expectations were surpassed with the introduction of our newest acquisition; a huge 2-axle, trailer-mounted barbecue (dubbed the “monstrosity” by Local 853 Secretary- Treasurer Rome Aloise). Of course, as we all know, size matters, exemplified by the new BBQ’s capacity (and a dedicated staff) to serve up hundreds of tasty breakfast burritos and similar delights.
Following the hearty breakfast, old timers, new hires and a host of family members were packed into the John Muir Middle School gymnasium (I think we had to actually stop cooking to get people inside). The standing-room-only crowds, as we have seen over the years, are becoming noticeably more diverse with more women and more people of color making up a wider variety of workers from companies we have contracts with.
As always, the gathering was a perfect time for many of us to re-connect with old friends, former co-workers and all the others whose names we can’t recall. This year’s meeting was also a time for nearly 1,000 Local 853 members to come together in solidarity, including raising $1,600 for the Davis Street Family Resource Center and Eastmont Garden of Hope simply by passing the bucket. This amount will be matched by the Local.
As in previous years, Aloise gave his time-honored State of the Union speech, highlighting our victories and pointing out upcoming threats. Rome also talked about our new building off of Hegenberger Road in Oakland that should be ready early in the new year. He noted that delays and increased costs were due primarily to the highly paid union workers doing the renovation. (I think he was kidding ... maybe?)
On a serious note, Aloise took a few minutes to encourage Local 853’s senior members to do a better job mentoring the younger members. He was particularly concerned that younger members lack a true understanding of the union and went so far as to note that a number of younger members tend to blame the union when things don’t go the way they want. The bottom line: it is the duty of members with an understanding of the union to continually educate those who don’t “get it.”
Aloise also touched on the current presidential election, (without officially endorsing a specific candidate). He noted, however, that Senator Bernie Sanders was the “working person’s candidate” and that former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton— while not perfect— would be a better choice than any Republican. He also asked Local 853’s membership to put aside personal issues (abortion, gun control, global warming, and so on) in order to focus on candidates who support unions.
This year’s Membership Appreciation Meeting was a huge success. Unfortunately, many members were unable to attend due to work schedules. For those who were there, the “take aways” included great food, prizes for many, gifts for all, a sore arm for those who received the free flu shot and, of course, an opportunity to hear from Secretary-Treasurer Aloise. The most significant “take away” was our collective solidarity; the diversity of jobs, gender, race, nationality, sexual orientation, immigration status and religion that makes us stronger because we are united as proud members of Teamsters Local 853.
As Aloise peered out over the packed gymnasium, he expressed his appreciation simply by saying, “You are my family.”