A Tribute to John Becker, Local 853 VP and Past-President

Secretary-Treasurer's Report - June 2011

When one of our officers retires it is always a bittersweet time for me. On one hand, I am happy that the person is able to retire in good health, with a good pension. On the other hand, I am sorry that our local loses the value of the experience and abilities that only come with time and commitment to the job.

John Becker, who has held the offices of Vice President and President of Local 853, announced his retirement effective July 1. Frankly, the announcement shocked me, as John is still relatively young. Of course, I know that he has been an official for 30-plus years, but I didn't expect him to retire so early.

John originally started working as a business agent for Local 860, after working at Macy’s and serving as a Shop Steward. I can still remember when John first starting working for the local. He was full of enthusiasm, piss and vinegar.

John progressed and eventually lead Local 860 as its Principal Officer and Secretary-Treasurer. As many companies started to move out of the West Bay to the East Bay or out of California altogether, John knew that Local 860 could not be as effective as a stand-alone local as it should be. In a totally unselfish gesture, which characterized his entire career, John did what was right for his members and merged into Local 853. He traded his own Principal Officer status for an increased ability to provide strong representation to the membership.

Since that time, John has played a crucial role in developing and growing Local 853 to become one of the premier local unions in the Teamsters Union.

In 2008, John unselfishly stepped down as President to open the way for our merger with Local 78, which again proved that bigger is better. John understood that by stepping back to the position of Vice President, he was taking on a less-advantageous title. But, he sacrificed for the good of the members and the local.

When John told me he was retiring, he said that he knew it was time to go because he was less satisfied with the work and with what he could accomplish. Again, John exhibited his integrity and incredible values by deciding to leave rather than to languish out his term of office. The job of representing our members is a tough, grueling, and mostly thankless job, except for the personal satisfaction one gets from knowing that we fight for workers’ rights and make workers’ lives better. It takes a special type of person to do this job and John is that very special type of person.

Although I am losing a partner and a confidante, upon whom I could always depend, I am happy that John is retiring at a time in his life that will enable him to enjoy the fruits of his labor and to spend time with his wife and family. I wish him good fortune, health and happiness. I encourage those of you who have had the good fortune to be represented by John as your business agent to thank him. In the next few weeks John will be working with the agents who will be assigned to his houses.

Fighting run-away employers

We are still in a struggle with two employers who are attempting to undermine our members’ rights. Loomis has used a technicality in the law that deals only with guards to walk away from their contractual obligations. VWR is attempting to run away to Visalia without giving our members the opportunity to follow their jobs. We cannot let our employers get away with these types of union busting schemes. We want every other employer to know what it will cost them to try. We will support our members until we win these fights.