On a wet and windy morning on Chicago’s South Side, nearly 100 Union Stewards from Teamsters Local 743 met to learn about the organizing side of union business. International Organizer Walt Westfield from the International Brotherhood of Teamsters (IBT) was on hand to guide stewards through a variety of lessons, fundamentals, and workshops to build stronger Stewards with a focus on organizing and building Teamster membership.

Westfield has been in Chicago for the past couple of months helping Local 743 with their organizing campaign at the University of Chicago Medical Center (UCMC). Local 743 is organizing over 700 lab technicians at UCMC. Local 743 Vice President Robin Sullivan has helped tremendously with the organizing efforts at UCMC. She said other groups such as Service and Maintenance and Clerical workers already working at UCMC are Local 743 members but if all 700 technicians decide to organize, they will be the largest collective bargaining unit at UCMC.

“They came to us initially seeking us out, because they realize that they were falling short when it comes to benefits and just having a voice in their workplace,” Sullivan said. “For instance, they were giving them all sporadic schedules, making them be on call for a nominal amount of money.”

Westfield, along with organizers from Local 743 and Teamsters Joint Council 25, led sessions teaching the basics of organizing. Westfield stressed the importance of organizing, and when individual locals grow in strength and numbers, so does the IBT.

“We need to go above and beyond to make sure that we have new members coming in at all times. If the International can be a part of helping a Local that wants to organize, we’re more than glad to help with our training and development,” Westfield said. “The more that our locals can organize, the more the International can organize and or assist in organizing, that means each Local becomes a little stronger when we get new members, and it means that the International as a whole is stronger in numbers too.”

By training stewards on how to organize, they are more engaged in their union and teach their fellow co-workers as well as and non-union workers about the benefits of being part of a strong labor union like the IBT.

“It’s important for unorganized workers to get organized for the simple fact of how the way the system is towards workers. You’re an employee at will. We need to have the workers understand that when they are employees at will, they have no grievance procedures, no recourse in any manner, and that the company can terminate them with or without reason. Organizing only strengthens the workers that were trying to organize so they can have stability in their lives,” Westfield said.

Local 743 is focused on winning the same types of benefits and protections for technicians at UCMC that other Teamsters already employed at UCMC enjoy.

“Some of them haven’t gotten raises in two years. Some of them were promised raises but they were never delivered,” Sullivan said. “We want a quality of life for everyone. That’s our focal point, to make sure that our members receive decent wages and that they have comprehensive benefits and job security.”

Teamsters Local 743 represents 10,000 members working in many different industries across Chicagoland. Local 743 is an affiliate member of Teamsters Joint Council 25, and the International Brotherhood of Teamsters.