The 2016 Teamsters Women’s Conference kicked off Thursday in Hollywood, California, where more than 1,300 Teamsters have gathered in the spirit of sisterhood and solidarity. The annual three-day conference provides an opportunity for education and empowerment for Teamsters from throughout North America.
“Hollywood is the set of our 16th annual conference, and our theme is ‘Lights, Camera…Teamster Women in Action.’ Today we have over a thousand dedicated and unstoppable women here. These leading ladies are here to learn, grow, share ideas, and strengthen the union we love so much,” said Becky Strzechowski, Director of the Teamsters Women’s Conference, President of Teamsters Local 700 in Chicago and a Trustee of Teamsters Joint Council 25.
Jim Hoffa, Teamsters General President, commended the conference participants on their enthusiasm and commitment, and called on them to lead the way in strengthening the union.“You’re the best organizers out there, just by word of mouth, and by talking about the rights you have as union members,” Hoffa said. “They say that ‘a rising tide raises all boats,’ well, the Teamsters Union is that boat and we’re raising the tide and raising wages and standards for working people.”
Hoffa noted the union has been busy organizing workers at a record pace; fighting to block bad trade deals like the Trans-Pacific Partnership; and encouraging members to vote in the presidential election. The union has endorsed Hillary Clinton, the first female candidate in U.S. presidential history.
Teamsters Political and Legislative Department Director Christy Bailey detailed the anti-labor agenda of politicians around the country, and wins by the union to fight off right-to-work efforts.“Vote and make sure your fellow Teamsters vote,” Bailey said. “We have Teamsters running for city council and the U.S. House. Someday we will have a Teamster running for president and someday we will have a Teamster woman running for president of the United States.”
Leslie Marshall, radio host of the syndicated Leslie Marshall Show, energized the Teamster crowd with calls for equal pay for women. While Teamster women have gender-blind contracts, nationally women still make only 79 cents to the dollar that men make.
“This is the United States of America, where women are supposed to be more progressive and lead the world, and that should be the same with money,” Marshall said. “You have something not all women have. You have a great union, the Teamsters, backing you. I’m honored to be here before such a great group of hardworking women.”
Randy Cammack, President of Teamsters Joint Council 42, welcomed the Teamsters to Hollywood and Joint Council 42. Joint Council 42 is the largest Joint Council in the union, made up of 23 local unions and 160,000 members. Cammack presented the Barbara Liddy Teamster Activist Award to Katie Langenstrass, principal officer of Local 1699. Local 1699 is the newest Teamster local, representing about 1,700 pediatric nurses and technicians at Rady Children’s Hospital in San Diego.
The Teamsters at the conference also demonstrated their global solidarity, collecting funds in support of the striking brewery workers with Australia’s Electrical Trades Union in Victoria, Australia. The workers are employed by a brewery that will become part of the global corporation InBev following a merger. Tony Gray, the union’s National President, came from Australia to address the Teamsters Women’s Conference.
Catherine Cobb, President of Teamsters Local 2010 representing 14,000 Teamsters at the University of California, gave a preview to a big rally planned for Friday in Hollywood. The rally will call on the university to provide a fair contract for Teamster members.
“We are engaged in contract negotiations and seeking to end two decades of wage injustice,” Cobb said. “It is reprehensible that the university is exploiting working women and men and people of color, and offering an insulting wage proposal.”
The 2016 Teamsters Women’s Conference will continue Friday with an address from Teamsters General Secretary-Treasurer Ken Hall, a march/rally in support of Teamsters Local 2010 members fighting for a fair contract at the University of California, dozens of educational workshops and more.
Teamsters Local 700 is an affiliate of Teamsters Joint Council 25, America’s premier labor union for Chicago, Illinois and northwest Indiana.