If you’re thinking about becoming a union bus member, you probably have many questions about what it means to be a Teamster. The process may seem daunting and there are a lot of misconceptions surrounding what it means to join our union.
If your workplace is going through a union organizing drive, you employer may begin an anti-union (“union busting”) campaign. Companies use managers, high-paid union busters and others to intimidate and confuse workers like us. Employers may have a one-on-one meeting with you, a mandatory meeting for you and your co-workers or distribute anti-union literature, all in the hopes that you give up on your goal of becoming a Teamster.
It’s important to remember in these meetings that management is doing this because they want to make decisions at the workplace that affect us, but without our input or approval. We have a right to have a say regarding these important issues. It’s important to know the facts so you and your co-workers can make an educated choice.
What is Collective Bargaining?
Collective bargaining is a process where we come together to meet with our employer and negotiate working conditions. As union members we all have an opportunity to be a part of this process. Without a union, we have no mechanism to engage in collective bargaining, and no way to ensure a voice regarding the conditions of our employment.
The first part of collective bargaining is we decide as a group what our priorities are in a contract. As Teamster members, we negotiate with management over wages, benefits, hours, job protections and working conditions. Our employers are required to negotiate in good faith over these issues once we are officially a union. After we reach an agreement with management, it goes to everyone covered under the contract, who vote to either accept or reject it. If the contract is approved then the benefits and protections are officially in place. If the contract is rejected, then we go back to the table to negotiate until we reach an agreement that a majority of the members support. Once the contract is in place, it is important that we stay engaged in the process in order to enforce the contract and build solidarity. Once the contract is in place, it is important that we stay engaged in the process in order to enforce the contract and build solidarity.
What is the Union?
A union is a group of workers who come together to improve their work lives by collectively negotiating with their employer over pay, benefits and working conditions. With the Teamsters, we are the union.
Working with union representatives we decide what’s important in our contract; we vote to approve that contract; we elect our own officers and we vote on the actions that we take. The union is not a “third party,” it is a democratic body made up of workers just like us. We are the union! Business agents, shop stewards, elected officers and all other union officials work for us, but it’s ultimately up to us to decide what we want our jobs to be like. At the end of the day, it’s on all of us to stand up for ourselves. The union is a tool that makes that possible.
Where do Union Dues Go?
Your union dues are divided between your local union and your national union. The money is used to provide us with full-time union representation that is there to protect us and our rights. The dues also go toward professional contract negotiators, lawyers, economists, educators, organizers, lobbyists and others to give us the clout we need to get pay increases, benefits and improvements on the job.
The Teamsters receive no outside money to operate – our union relies completely on our dues. This maintains our union’s integrity by ensuring that it is committed solely to the membership. Our dues do not go toward political donations.
How Can Forming a Union with the Teamsters Help Improve Our Jobs?
The idea of a union is that by coming together with our fellow workers, we have a greater ability to improve conditions in our workplaces. By becoming members of the Teamsters, we’re giving ourselves strong representation and a voice on the job to fight for better pay and benefits, safe working conditions and job security.
The biggest benefit of Teamster membership is the power of a Teamster contract. We are setting the standard in the passenger transportation industry with each Teamster contract we negotiate. If a company violates the contract after it has been agreed upon, we can hold them accountable through a quick and effective grievance procedure.
The other big benefit of Teamster representation is a voice on the job and professionals that have our backs. With the Teamsters, we have dedicated, professional union representatives that we can go to with our concerns to improve our jobs. Without that, our working conditions can be changed on a whim by the company. Under a Teamster contract we have job security; employers must show “just cause” for termination. Without a union, we can be fired at any time for any reason.
The truth is that union members are better off than workers doing the same job in a nonunion setting. Union workers like us make an average of 28 percent more than nonunion workers. We also have better benefits and are far less likely to be injured in a workplace-related accident, according to the U.S. Department of Labor.
The Teamsters’ study of workers at First Student (the largest school bus company in the country) showed that Teamster First Student members earned on average $2 more per hour than nonunion workers, as well as a number of other benefits and protections.
Having a union means more respect, a fair grievance procedure that helps us to effectively address workplace problems and issues, and a voice over pay, benefits and working conditions.