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Teamsters’ Hard Fight For a Fair UPS Contract, with Chris Williamson and Richard Hooker Jr.

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Black Work Talk
Teamsters' Hard Fight For a Fair UPS Contract, with Chris Williamson and Richard Hooker Jr.

Around 340,000 members of the Teamsters Union who work for UPS came within days of walking off the job in July 2023 in what would have been the one of the largest strikes in US history. In August, they voted 86.3% in favor of ratification of a new five-year contract with the company. The contract provides provisions like a $21 per hour minimum wage for new part-time hires, increased wages for full-time UPS workers with an average top rate of $49 per hour, and safety provisions such as in-cab air conditioning for vehicles added to fleets after January 1, 2024.

Joining Bianca and Jamala this episode to discuss their experience in these negotiations and more about the relationship of UPS and the Teamsters are Chris Williamson, vice president and bargaining team member of Queens Local 804, and Philadelphia Teamsters Local 623 President Richard Hooker Jr.

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[00:00:00] Chris Williamson: They show you that the drivers are making 40 an hour, but they won’t tell you that inside they’re paying these people 16 and they’re struggling. So me being a BA and a vice president, I’m seeing this every day, it is no way I was going to sell these part timers out. You have people across the board.

[00:00:26] Enough is enough. They made record, breaking profits. [00:00:30] And what really pissed me off is they gave the part time supervisors during the pandemic a raise. And they did nothing but get us sick.

[00:00:43] Bianca Cunniingham: Welcome to Black Work Talk, the podcast voice of Black workers, leaders, activists, and intellectuals exploring the connections between race, capitalism, labor, and culture in our struggle for a democratic, Progressive governing power. I’m your host Bianca Cunningham 

[00:00:59] Jamala Rogers: [00:01:00] and I’m your co host Jamilah Rogers. On today’s episode, we will be joined by Vice President and bargaining team member of Queens Local 804, Chris Williamson, and the Philly Teamsters Local 623 President, Richard Hooker Jr.

[00:01:15] Together, they’re going to talk about the hard fought contract they recently won with UPS. which avoided one of the largest strikes in U. S. history, just days before the strike deadline.[00:01:30] 

[00:01:32] On this show, we will spend a lot of time in conversation with folks already in the world of organized labor and activism. But according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, only 10 percent of wage and salary workers in the U. S. are union members. This hit a record low in 2022. This number has been a rapid decline ever since Reagan took office in his 1980 election.

[00:01:58] But with modern high profile [00:02:00] unionization campaigns, like the ones that have happened in Amazon’s Starbucks. Workers are starting to realize that we have power to organize, and we have power in our own workplaces. But after two generations of union bashing, union busting, and anti union propaganda from the federal government and private sectors, young people, especially who are not already organized, might be asking themselves, Well, how do I do [00:02:30] that?

[00:02:30] That’s where my co host, Bianca, comes in to tell you how to organize with our Organizing 101. So, Bianca, what are we going to explore 

[00:02:40] Bianca Cunniingham: today? Jamala, today we’re talking about where to start, like you said. We know that a lot of the listeners, especially if you’ve been listening since the very beginning, you are very well versed in organized labor and movement spaces, but this This particular segment is for people who are brand new.

[00:02:56] Uh, we want to call you in. So you might be wondering, like [00:03:00] Jamala said, how do I get started in this process? So the first step is to talk to your coworkers. It’s really that simple. You want to find out from them, are you sharing some of the same concerns? Um, is there a common theme such as lack of respect and dignity, or maybe no input with management or unfair and arbitrary treatment or favoritism from management?

[00:03:20] All these are great reasons to organize and start a union. You also could organize around wages and [00:03:30] benefits. You know, maybe they’re lower at your workplace than what other workers are getting around you. Or maybe you just feel like they should pay you more. Try to write them up on a list together as you’re having these conversations so that you can identify the common themes.

[00:03:43] There are some rules though when talking about a union to your co workers. Be sure to only talk when you’re on breaks, away from work areas, away from your management, maybe even in the parking lot or on the street outside of where you work. Um, [00:04:00] organizing a union is completely legal and protected under the law, but you need to avoid tipping off management as long as possible.

[00:04:07] If your employer finds out, Especially when you are in the beginning stages of identifying key workplace issues and building your union support and committee. Your road to success will be much more difficult because your manager or your company is probably not pro union and will do everything, including firing you, um, to squash any kind of union effort.

[00:04:29] So, [00:04:30] something to keep in mind. 

[00:04:31] Jamala Rogers: Those are absolutely wonderful, uh, tips. The thing that I always think about when talking with not just young people, but people that are thinking about unions, and especially if they’re pessimistic, to think about what unions help us get. Because folks just automatically think we got these, uh, 40 hour work weeks, that we got, you know, uh, living wages, we got, you know, health benefits.

[00:04:57] That didn’t come because the [00:05:00] private corporations thought that was a good idea. Unions fought for that, which leads me to the next point. None of these, uh, concessions have been because one person stepped up. It’s been the might of organized labor. And so even though you might have a particular grievance, you by yourself raising that grievance is probably not going to get you what you need.

[00:05:22] So always think about the collective, the unified force of organizing. 

[00:05:28] Bianca Cunniingham: That’s right, Jamala. I’m thinking [00:05:30] back, you know, 10 years ago when I organized my own workplace, um, a lot of the concerns that I had that I couldn’t bring up individually, I would have made myself a target. And so my best bet was to talk to the folks who worked with me, figure out how we could work together to bring these issues up because they can’t fire us all.

[00:05:47] Jamala Rogers: But I’m thinking about even your own case, there are a number of folks who had an issue for themselves and saying, this is BS. What do I do? What made you think beyond, okay, I have to accept this because it’s just [00:06:00] me or I, you know, I don’t want to lose my job. What was the thing that made you think this got to stop and I’m going to do something different?

[00:06:09] Bianca Cunniingham: Honestly, it’s our, uh, exposure to the other unions. So, you know, I was working at a retail store. And, you know, oftentimes we would see other unions picketing out front or other picket lines, you know, in the area. And it, we were looking at those workers thinking, wow, they’re doing pretty good for themselves.

[00:06:28] Some, many of them were [00:06:30] customers in our store. They seem to be, you know, being able to put their kids through college and buying property in Brooklyn. That’s a huge feat on its own. And so we were wondering like, what is the difference? Um, we want what they have, we need what they have. And so that’s what prompted me to say that like, we needed to do a union.

[00:06:49] But honestly, the other thing Jamala, I would say is that like, We had to learn the hard way because initially our strategy was just to call HR, like the things that we were [00:07:00] dealing with the disrespect, you know, the arbitrary changes, all of those things. We figured, well, the company can’t be behind this.

[00:07:07] This has to be just like a couple bad actors, right? A couple bad managers. So if we really let the management, like the H. R. Know what was happening. We thought that H. R. Would come in and kind of rectify some of these issues. We had issues around sexual harassment, etcetera. And so we learned very quickly, though.

[00:07:25] Um, you know, we would call H. R. Like every week and we would say it’s your turn to call H. R. It’s my turn to call [00:07:30] each hour. You know, we had a whole strategy, but we learned very quickly that H. R. S job is to protect the company from getting sued. Not to help us. And so if you’re listening to this right now and you’re thinking, well, I’ll just go through the channels that provide are provided to me through my employer.

[00:07:45] You need to understand that their job is to protect the company, not to 

[00:07:49] Jamala Rogers: protect you. So, and I would say to add onto that, Bianca. That you still want to do that as the first step because oftentimes people will say, well, did you [00:08:00] raise this issue to the proper authorities? So, but I think the shortening of that period of time that you’re doing that is probably the key.

[00:08:09] But I would say that have it on record that you raise these issues and there was no resolution. And so that prompted you. To do go to the next step, but again, there’s might in organizing and there is obviously for me, uh, victory in organizing. So, uh, so please take these tips [00:08:30] into consideration when you begin to think about, oh, this is not working for me and is not working for my coworkers.

[00:08:37] So what can we do differently? 

[00:08:39] Bianca Cunniingham: Yeah, those are really good points, Jamala. I think the only thing that makes me think about a little bit though, is like, regardless of whether HR would have solved the problems that we called about, we still deserved a union. And I think every worker deserves a union. You just want to have protections, um, in place for yourselves and your, yourself and your coworkers.

[00:08:58] And so I would say that [00:09:00] sometimes, I mean, Even as I’m thinking back to my own experience, sometimes the company can make really quick changes, get rid of the bad manager that everybody hates. Those are actually things that they do to squash the union momentum. And so just keeping that in mind, that like big picture, this is about you having something in writing for your co workers.

[00:09:18] That in the future, if they want to make changes, they have to discuss them with you, and you get a lot of the benefits that you, you know, that you already get just solidified in writing, um, so that they can’t take them away arbitrarily. 

[00:09:29] Jamala Rogers: Yeah, [00:09:30] so I think what I hear you saying is don’t go for the okie doke, because there may be some temporary minor changes that looks like they’re listening, but in the long run, you still need that union, because then, ahead of time, you’re going to have all those issues resolved.

[00:09:46] In a contract and you gonna have to fight for everything as it comes up. 

[00:09:50] Chris Williamson: That’s right.

[00:09:58] Bianca Cunniingham: In August, Teamsters [00:10:00] members voted 86.3% in favor of ratification of a new collective bargaining agreement with UPS providing a contract for the next five years. The contract provides provisions like a 21 per hour minimum wage for new part time hires, increased wages for full time UPS workers, setting an average top rate of 49 per hour, and safety provisions like in cab air conditioning for vehicles added to the fleets after January 1st of 2024.

[00:10:29] [00:10:30] But Teamsters had to come within days of entering one of the largest strikes in U. S. history to negotiate and settle this contract back in July. Joining us to discuss their experience in these negotiations and more about the relationship between the UPS and Teamsters are Vice President and Bargaining Team Member of Queens Local 804, Chris Williamson, and Philadelphia Teamsters Local 623 President, Richard Hooker Jr.

[00:10:54] Chris, thank you so much for coming on. 

[00:10:57] Chris Williamson: How you doing, sis? I gotta correct you [00:11:00] though. We’re no longer in Queens. We’re in Port Washington, Long Island. Remember, we, we told the old local and got a bigger local. 

[00:11:08] Bianca Cunniingham: I didn’t know that. So that’s news. Congratulations. And Richard, thanks for joining us too. It’s great to see 

[00:11:15] Richard Hooker Jr.: you.

[00:11:16] No problem. Thanks for having me. It’s good to see 

[00:11:17] Jamala Rogers: you. So I think this is such an exciting time for workers. I mean, uh, today the UAW went on strike. Uh, you all just talked about selling a local and going bigger and [00:11:30] better. So it just says to me that, you know, workers are in motion and they are headed for victories.

[00:11:35] So I really want to talk a little bit about the history of, uh, the Teamsters with UPS. And I know it’s been a long one, but You know, talk a little bit about what that has been like the ups and downs and what you all feel like is now the current relationship with, uh, the UPS. 

[00:11:55] Richard Hooker Jr.: Okay. All right. So the relationship, as you, as you pointed out, um, it’s been an [00:12:00] over a hundred year relationship.

[00:12:01] The, the chairman back then, or the CEO, whatever you want to call them. Um, Casey came to the team because he realized that in order for his, his company to be the best. He had to get the best workers and everybody knows that nobody does it better than Teamsters. So he reached out to the Teamsters and, um, that relationship has had its ups and downs.

[00:12:25] I will say that I believe it was probably better back then [00:12:30] than it is now. Once the company went public, I think that whole relationship of family, just a camaraderie. Um, I think that all went out the door, um, and replace of stockholders stock prices and shareholders. So that would, you know, that relationship of family was replaced with profits and not people.

[00:12:53] And, and, and now, um, the company is, is just, they’re just a [00:13:00] tyrant and, you know, We have to deal with it the best, so we know how, and we will, we will. Um, you know, Chris, um, his local is really an example of what militant leadership looks like. I think when you talk about teamsters in general, it’s only about a couple locals that really people talk about when it comes to dealing with UP.

[00:13:23] 804 and 705. Now, 623, we’re creeping in that conversation now, you [00:13:30] know, um, but still right now, when you talk about, um, I appreciate that brother, but, um, you know, um, again, you talk about Ron Carey taking UPS on strike, where did he come from? Local 804. You talk about Chicago strength. Now you talk about 705 and 710 and those locals there that represent.

[00:13:54] UPS workers. So the relationship again, I believe back, back when it first started [00:14:00] up until probably the company went public, it was pretty good. No relationship with the union and the company is always going to, you know, always going to have some, some rifts, just the nature of the business. But once the company went public, I think that’s when the whole company just say, you know what, you know, we’re going to do what we want to do.

[00:14:19] We’re going to dominate these workers. You’re going to care more about the profits than our people. So that’s where we at today. 

[00:14:26] Jamala Rogers: So I’m thinking that’s the first time that I’ve [00:14:30] heard the history of UPS was that the company reached out to the Teamsters. That’s an unusual relationship to start off with because usually these folks are resistant, uh, up until you take the vote, and then it still is going to be hostility.

[00:14:45] So that, that’s kind of a unique situation. Chris, you want to add to the history, particularly with, uh, what’s going on in your local? 

[00:14:54] Chris Williamson: Um, like he said, though, they reached out to the team says, um, I [00:15:00] believe personally, Casey must be turning in his grave the way they run in the company. Now it used to be about the family.

[00:15:08] Um, to get promoted, you have to get promoted with inside right now. They got this lady Carol running the company. She’s never loaded a box, never delivered the box. And it’s all about numbers for them coming from 804 with Ron carry. Who I believe is one of the greatest presidents we had who led us on strike in 97 [00:15:30] when he took us out on strike on 97 UPS realized the damage that we can do if we went on strike.

[00:15:38] So they started. improving their systems and trying to make it dummy down where anybody could do the job and they still can’t do that. Um, and then they got rid of Ron Carey because I think he was making the right moves. And then we got Hoffa and it took us many years to get rid of Hoffa. I [00:16:00] think since Hoffa’s son was in office, um, all we did was give concessions.

[00:16:06] I couldn’t say I’ve been here 35 years. I haven’t seen anything. He did good for the members Um, I have to give a shout out to tim sebesta Who was one of the people who tried to help get rid of hopper? Um, a lot of people didn’t understand what he was trying to do But as long as hopper was there if hopper was in the office today We would not have the contract that we had today.[00:16:30] 

[00:16:30] So I gotta tip my hat off to sean o’brien. So I mean We’re going in the right direction. Um, Vinnie Perrone is the president of 804. He’s doing very good. He’s a fighter. I met somebody who hates the company just as much as I do.

[00:16:50] We’ve been back in office for five years. We’re willing to help any local out there that need help. Um, you don’t have to be a teamster. If you’re in the union, [00:17:00] If you have a picket line, we will be on it. If you need resources, Vinny put together an outstanding organizer team led by Anthony Mizzario. He’s going across the world.

[00:17:14] Him and Antoine Anderson. So 

[00:17:18] Bianca Cunniingham: I remember, uh, leading up to the strike this summer, seeing you all have a real big presence on Tik TOK, which was really exciting. Like I think that’s where I got the majority of the updates was from Tik TOK, but I remember [00:17:30] seeing the video of the driver scrambling the egg.

[00:17:33] on their dashboard because of how hot it was in the truck. And I wonder if you could just talk about what were some of the issues. We know like air conditioning and the heat, you know, that in the truck was one of the issues. What were some of the other issues, um, that you all had coming into this contract negotiation fight?

[00:17:52] Chris Williamson: Long day, working long days, long hours. Um, we focus, we tend to focus a lot on the [00:18:00] drivers. And there’s a, there’s a group of part timers and inside workers that’s forgotten. When UPS put it out there, they try to act like everybody was making 40 something dollars an hour. These part timers only was making like 15, 16 an hour.

[00:18:20] It’s so bad in New York City that some of them were living in shelters. So, we was fighting issues for pay, [00:18:30] CRD issues, job issues. And on the warehouses, the warehouses are hot in the summertime and in the wintertime you freeze. So we need better conditions. I mean, we got under this new contract, we got them to install more fans, which is a plus, but down the road, we got to do something with the ventilation and all that.

[00:18:54] Something with 

[00:18:54] Bianca Cunniingham: climate control, 

[00:18:56] Chris Williamson: something. Yeah. With the drivers, it was a plus. [00:19:00] We never seen it coming, but we got the ACs in the truck. Some people say, Oh, it never happened, but they have five years to upgrade all the trucks, which is a plus because with the drivers, it is hot in those trucks, especially in the back cab.

[00:19:16] When they deliver in places like Arizona, Vegas, even New York is hot. And I believe we lost like maybe two or three brothers and sisters in the last five years, just for the heat. [00:19:30] And you would think after the first one. UPS should have been looking for a way to see how they can cool these trucks, but then as you see to them, it was profit over us and that’s sad.

[00:19:46] Richard Hooker Jr.: Oh yeah, another thing that was very important, especially to me personally, was the treatment of our members. Um, I, I, I, I were, I was on CNN and we talked about the [00:20:00] importance of making sure our members were treated fairly. With dignity and respect. If we are sacrificing our lives to come to work during the most difficult time, or one of the most difficult times in American history, and you continue to treat our members a certain way, I personally have a big problem with that.

[00:20:19] Um, I think everybody deserves respect. I don’t care who the janitor or the CEO. Um, I don’t care your title, what it is. Um, your, your God given right is for you to [00:20:30] have dignity and respect, especially on the workplace. And so UPS, what they constantly do is they disrespect our workers. It’s not just about the pay, not the overtime.

[00:20:41] It’s how I’m treated when I’m on the shop floor. If I file a grievance, which is again under my protected activity, and then you turn around and try to fire me, us as union people, all of us have a problem with that because a lot of people fought for that grievance procedure. People die [00:21:00] for that, you know, and now you’re telling me that if I use it, you’re going to fire me or suspend me or whatever the case may be.

[00:21:09] Then, um, we have a problem with that. And so, um, we fought hard for some type of language for harassment because, um, you just can’t throw money at harassment, right? You just can’t throw money at it. It has to be something where it’s going to hurt the company that if you do X, Y, and Z. Then [00:21:30] X, Y, and Z is going to happen to you also, something like that.

[00:21:32] And also supervisors working, listen, UPS, they, they save a lot of money by having the supervisors work, which takes money from our members. And, uh, it was good to see them increase that penalty to four times. Your hourly rate. So now our members in some, in, in most cases can see a triple digit for every hour that a supervisor works.

[00:21:59] [00:22:00] And I know that, you know, we want them to stop, but if I got to keep paying money, you know, all this excessive money for supervisors working, if I’m the CEO, I don’t care how much beans of dollars I’m getting. I’m going to try to find out, yo, why am I paying tens of thousands of hundreds of thousands of dollars?

[00:22:19] To a local just because my, my, my supervisor won’t keep their hand in their pockets. Right. And so it was good to see that, you know, it was good to see some other things as far [00:22:30] as, you know, penalty pays on certain things. Um, but again, my, my biggest gripe is always going to be dignity and respect. Um, I don’t care how much money you make.

[00:22:41] I don’t care what color you are. I don’t care where you come from. If you can’t respect me as a human being, especially I’m working for you to make your billions. We always going to have a problem. And until that is fixed, I think that fight is, is we’re going to have to take that fight on every single [00:23:00] day.

[00:23:00] Cause UPS, they still haven’t stopped. They’re going to continue to disrespect our members. But I think us as union people. We have to come together whenever this stuff happens, we have to let the company know that you’re not going to continue to disrespect that work because all labor has dignity and I think they need to be reminded of that daily, not, not just every five years when the contract is up.

[00:23:23] They need to be reminded of that every single day. 

[00:23:27] Jamala Rogers: So Richard, I think that’s a rallying cry [00:23:30] for most workers when you do this, the, uh, the survey of what’s top, they always say how I’m treated. The wages are down like maybe three or four is how I’m treated. And then the conditions that I have to work in.

[00:23:45] But I wanted to ask either one of you all, uh, obviously during COVID, the importance of UPS drivers increased. I mean, and so obviously the profits increased. So I’m wondering during that [00:24:00] time, was it clear that you all were definitely essential workers that needed to be, uh, duly compensated and, and respected based on how, how the public was depending on you all?

[00:24:15] Chris Williamson: We was only essential workers when they needed us to get their profit. Other than that, we wasn’t considered essential workers. If they did, when they was getting these cuts and stuff. They would have gave us something. They gave us nothing. [00:24:30] When the pandemic first hit, we knew that it was hard to get masks and stuff like that.

[00:24:38] Um, we was at a national panel, and I remember Benny talking to one of the labor guys, and he said, well, why should we provide y’all with masks and all of this? You should buy your own government. Yes, not until the government told them that they had to provide these things They would not have for what see you [00:25:00] PS looks like they great in certain ways and and I can’t blame the company I blame the people that’s trying to run the company All right They need to look at the people that they put in place because these people have no common sense nor do they care about the workers So when he’s made that comment we went out And we bought masks and masks and, um, rubber gloves for our workers.

[00:25:23] Because you know what, UPS ain’t going to do it, Vinny said we’re going to do it. We’re going to show the workers we care. The [00:25:30] minute we start doing it and the government says, Oh, you got to provide this. Then they start to provide it. Like, look, we got you. We, we care about you. Like, hell you care about me.

[00:25:39] You would have gave me this shit before. But they don’t care. You know what I’m saying? So now we as essential workers, because we had to deliver all the packages, you know, then when things calmed down, the harassment came back, the mistreatment came back, you know, so like Rich [00:26:00] said, that’s something that we have to fight every day.

[00:26:04] Richard Hooker Jr.: So let me give y’all a quick story about COVID here in Philly. So, my counterpart for the company, I reached out constantly. What are you going to do for our members who are in these tight quarters? Because, don’t forget, we’re supposed to be six feet apart. What are you going to do for, um, the drivers who are carrying, who are delivering in these [00:26:30] conditions?

[00:26:30] What are we going to do? Now? Um, the building is dirty. I’ve had members send me bathrooms where the water’s not running, dirt everywhere. And I’m sending these pictures to my counterpart. What are we going to do? Week after week. Nothing happened. So you know what I did? Went to the news crews here in Philly.

[00:26:50] Hey, send them the videos. I want y’all to see how UPS is treating essential workers. This is not [00:27:00] the big bad union people. This is what UPS is doing to who everybody is calling essential and everybody got to see the young lady go to the faucet, turn it on and no water come out. They got to see the trash everywhere.

[00:27:18] They got to see the dirt. And the package cars. So then I get a call from my counterpart and say, Hey, the president of the district want to meet with meet with you. And then, Oh, by the way, please don’t [00:27:30] go on TV anymore. I said, this could have been resolved weeks ago. You guys, like Chris said, you guys don’t care about our members.

[00:27:40] So at a certain point, we got to push you guys again. You don’t respect them. You don’t think they’re worth anything. So you treat them as such. But not under our watch. Then, we had another member, single father, who had finally got custody of his kid. He’d been working hard to get custody of his son, [00:28:00] finally got it.

[00:28:01] They tell him, you gotta make a choice, either come in on your unscheduled day off, because we got all these packages, because everybody’s ordering online, choose your son, or choose your job. That’s UPS. That’s UPS. That’s UPS in a nutshell, and it goes back to the harassment and dignity and respect that I’m talking about.

[00:28:22] They’ll pay the grievance for supervisors working. They’ll pay the penalty, but that control that they have. Over [00:28:30] our members livelihood is what means most of them to anything because what they did to that brother in that, in that office. And I went crazy. How? Cause I’m a father. I’m not going to choose this job over my boy.

[00:28:44] Are you crazy? You can keep this job. You should. There you go. You shouldn’t have to, but that’s the control that UPS has. And that’s what they continue to want. And we have to continue to break that away from them because if not, it’s going to be a perpetual cycle every [00:29:00] day. But that’s who they are. 

[00:29:02] Bianca Cunniingham: I’m so glad you mentioned that Richard, the part about control.

[00:29:05] I feel like when I was, uh, like a younger person, just, you know, wanting to start my own union at Verizon wireless. One of the things in our head, my, my, me and my coworker’s head was like, that the most important thing was money. We thought everything came down to the dimes and the dollars. And we got to that bargaining table.

[00:29:22] And within six months, learn very quickly that this is not has. Anything to do with money. It has everything to do with control. They kept using words like [00:29:30] manager, discretion, company discretion. We need to have the discretion to run the business as we see fit. And so I’m like, that was one of the main like takeaways for me out of my first, like time ever bargaining.

[00:29:42] And I like hope that everybody who’s listening, who’s thinking about starting a union or any union understands that, that it’s not about money. Like we think it is, it’s really all about 

[00:29:51] Richard Hooker Jr.: control. That’s it. The president of the district told me after we had this big rally for one of our sisters who broke her wrist.

[00:29:59] [00:30:00] And the company didn’t do anything. They let her sit in the office for about two hours with a broke wrist, a black woman, Joe, you know, right. And, you know, they, they let us sit and we, I mean, we rallied and, and we, we, we call so much ruckus. They sent me a letter saying I’m a bully and I’m this and I’m that.

[00:30:21] Um, but it’s about controlling it. She told me hooker. You want things one way. I know my, I know my manager is wrong. I know he [00:30:30] should have took, you know, should have took her to the hospital, but since you are here causing all this ruckus. We’re not going to do anything because it’s about control. We’re not going to let the union think they beat us.

[00:30:42] We’re not going to let them think that we let them win or they won over us. That’s what it’s about. It’s about control for companies like we’re all employers. It’s about control. They’ll pay you the money. They will. Look what UPS has paid 7. 50 over five years. They never did that, but they [00:31:00] still got control.

[00:31:00] They still got control and that’s all they really care about. During the 

[00:31:05] Chris Williamson: pandemic, a lot of these part timers was working more hours than they ever worked. And they was making the money. But we had a building in Lauriton, Queens, where 10 people Worked at least six hours and they went home because they went home.

[00:31:23] They fired 10 people and out of the 10 people, three of them were pregnant and rich. I gave them [00:31:30] a shout out because they came up to, they got on that turnpike and gave us their support when we was out there rallying. And I was pissed cause I’m like, how do you tell a pregnant woman? She can’t go home.

[00:31:43] And one of them was eight months. Wow. So when she walked off the job, I said, wait up, she’s guaranteed three and a half. She had to hold her up to five hours. She wouldn’t pass five hours. You’re telling me that your supervisor is that stupid that he couldn’t let her go home? So we was out there [00:32:00] for three weeks, we would not stop.

[00:32:01] We had signs, we had the sign truck, and they took it, we took it to panel, and UPS felt that they was going to win. After they lost the second one, they bring everybody back, and they got back pay. This is a company They’re five, three pregnant females because they wanted to go home. And then I even gave a shout out to Carol.

[00:32:24] I says, if that was your daughter, what would you say? If that was your [00:32:30] niece, would you allow that? That is somebody mother, sister, auntie. And you telling the pregnant lady that it’s eight months and we know eight months, you know, it’s hard on a woman that she could not go home because it was about the profit.

[00:32:47] Bianca Cunniingham: Right. 

[00:32:49] Jamala Rogers: But I’m also thinking about when the, just the stories that you all are telling that require you to engage and mobilize your members. And I’m wondering if that’s part of the tactic [00:33:00] of control, because if you all are having to be reactive, then you can’t be proactive and think about some of the other creative ways that you may be engaging your members.

[00:33:11] What do you think about that? 

[00:33:13] Richard Hooker Jr.: Well, I think you’re right. Being proactive is the main thing. And that’s one of the things that we, we, we really focused on here is not being so reactive. Now, sometimes you do because the company can do something, right. But no one, this company, like we know them, you know, you have to beat them [00:33:30] to the punch.

[00:33:31] And that’s why we, we, we had the rally for the young lady. That’s why we had the rally for the MRA because we, we want them to be on a defensive sometime. You know, we just can’t be on the defensive all the time. No, we want to put them. Back, you know, ho, ho, ho, what’s going on here? That’s why when I got that letter from the, the, the um, district, district labor manager calling me a bully, now you know what it feels like.

[00:33:56] Right? When, when he called me and said, hey man, don’t get on TV no more. [00:34:00] Now you know what it feels like. Right? They don’t control the narrative. They don’t control the narrative. And that’s the main thing. They don’t, so listen, they don’t mind, again, they don’t mind you filing the grievances. They don’t mind you doing that.

[00:34:11] But once you start really calling them to carpet, now they got a problem. And that’s why it was important for us and 804 as well, to be out there constantly, you know, letting the public know, this is what UPS is, this is who they are down to the core, you know, uh, this is how they treat our workers. This is how they treat our [00:34:30] pregnant women.

[00:34:31] This is how they treat our single fathers who have to make a Detroit and someone coming in on an unscheduled day where he’s already worked 50 hours or spending time with his son who he just got custody of. And this is who they are. And so that’s why that proactive narrative of, Hey, this is who UPS is.

[00:34:51] They can’t change that. Like to, to Chris, what he said earlier, when the COVID and the mask, I never forget, they had this big old [00:35:00] picture. Uh, I think, uh, uh, one of their, one of their aircraft had all these, these masks and gloves flying to Kentucky. Oh, look at what we’re doing. Yeah. But. Look what we had to do to get you there, right?

[00:35:13] We had to force you. You didn’t do that on your own. And then I thought it’s in for free. They really didn’t care until they started getting COVID. That’s when they really started saying, Oh man, this thing is serious. Oh man, we, we gotta do something about this. They [00:35:30] didn’t care. 

[00:35:30] Chris Williamson: But you know what? They was making supervisors come in when they were sick, and that’s what pissed me off.

[00:35:37] Mm hmm. Well, he got it. No, he need to stay home. Yep. He need to do the 10 days like we got to do it. No, well, no, keep him home. And they was forcing these supervisors. And that’s why I think in certain buildings, it’s spread rapidly and more. Because instead of them following the protocol, supervisors are supervisors.

[00:35:59] He’s [00:36:00] still a human being. If they’re sick, let them stay home. They put so much pressure on these young men and women with supervisors, had them scared that they was going to lose their job, that they coming in and affecting everybody else. And you know 

[00:36:11] Bianca Cunniingham: that’s happening even to this day. 

[00:36:13] Jamala Rogers: Well, how, how is that profitable if folks gonna have to stay home if they get infected?

[00:36:18] I mean, the whole shit, what, that seems to be illogical to me, but hey, what do I know? 

[00:36:27] Bianca Cunniingham: Can we shift? I want to shift gears really quick. [00:36:30] You touched on this earlier, Chris, but talking about the importance, I feel like every time I spoke to you throughout the process, you were part timers, part timers, part timers, part timers, part timers.

[00:36:40] That seems to be. a real big theme or the big thing that the union saw the team’s teamster saw was really important for this contract um cycle and so can y’all talk a little bit about why that was so important to you all the union um and what you feel like you came out of that fight 

[00:36:57] Chris Williamson: well if you go back to 97 [00:37:00] the reason why we were on strike is we said part time america don’t work right you know you have men and women working two and three jobs so we were on strike to get Uh, a guarantee because back then part time was guaranteed three hours to three and a half and we got more pay now you go, you, you fast forward 35 years and the starting pay didn’t go up that much.

[00:37:27] And it only went up because like in New York, [00:37:30] minimum wage went up to 15. If it was up to UPS, they’ll still be paying 9 an hour. All right. So me coming from, and I was a part time for 12 years. From the inside of the warehouse, seeing how they treated us. And I think everybody’s seen that, that the inside people have forgotten once that we had to make sure that these insiders.

[00:37:52] Got something this contract and I remember having a conversation with Sean and he goes, well, if you see [00:38:00] something you don’t like, you better speak up. That’s what you’re here for. And I can say out of 35 years, this is the first time I could say that we have a lot of people on the IBT that support the part time is 100 percent because they was ready to walk out.

[00:38:18] 340, 000 members. On the street because they did not want to get the part times anything and that is bad They give you forced numbers. They show you that the drivers are [00:38:30] making 40 an hour, but they won’t tell you that inside they’re paying these people 16 And they’re struggling. So me being a BA and a vice president, I’m seeing this every day.

[00:38:43] It is no way I was going to sell these part timers out or even rich when it sold his part timers out. You had people across the board. Enough is enough. They made record breaking profits. And what really pissed me off is they gave the part time supervisors during the [00:39:00] pandemic a raise. And they did nothing but get us sick.

[00:39:03] Jamala Rogers: Wow. So when I look at you two, uh, I mean, I see some dynamic, charismatic union leaders, and I’m wondering, uh, are you all grooming the next generation of leaders? You talking about, Chris, you’ve been there 35 years. I suspect you might be looking at retirement soon. What does the future generation of young union leadership look like and how are they being 

[00:39:27] Chris Williamson: groomed?

[00:39:28] That’s a hard one. [00:39:30] This generation sometimes is too laid back, and I think that some of this generation don’t understand the importance of what a union is. But we’re trying to groom some people, but you know, it’s just hard to get that right person. You don’t want to put the wrong person in a position that can affect everything you build with.

[00:39:52] You know, some people say, well, why are you still here? Well, the foundation is weakened. And if I don’t help make it strong, [00:40:00] everything I fought for, for 35 years can collapse. So I hear a lot of old time goes, well, I got mine’s already. And I’m like, you stupid, because now you retire and you didn’t help build that foundation.

[00:40:14] And the wrong person that’s put in place, don’t know how to fight for what you fought for. They can give it all the way in one contract. Then you get that letter saying your pension’s cut. Who do you blame? You have to blame yourself. [00:40:30] All right. Cause you was in a position to try to help, um, strengthen that foundation.

[00:40:36] The foundation is our young kids and we got to stop calling them dumb because they called us dumb when we started. We didn’t know that when I, when I started at UPS. I didn’t know that much about a union until after getting fired the sixth time I started reading my book. They [00:41:00] can’t do this. Yeah, I got fired plenty of times.

[00:41:04] This was the first time And I, I, I used to like a lot of OT as a part timer. So I’m doing like seven, eight hours, but you have some people like Rich said, single fathers or mothers, they need to go home and they used to scare them. If you go home, you fight. And they used to come to me and I’m like, ah, man, I said, just go home.

[00:41:24] Nah, man. So maybe the shots do it. Got to lead by example. After five hours, [00:41:30] I’m out. You go, you fight. I said, I guess you fight. He said, give me your ID and my ID. My teacher, John Brown, was the vice president. Then I’m walking out the door. He goes, where you going? I said, they said, I’m fine. He goes like hell.

[00:41:45] We went right back in . We sat down with the, um, the, the dm. He goes, why are you firing him? He goes, well, he, he don’t wanna stay past five hours. He said, you gonna give him a full-time job? He goes, no. He’s a [00:42:00] part-timer. He says, exactly, he did his five hours. He’s going home. You want him to stay for eight hours?

[00:42:05] Give him a fulltime job. I said, I’ll take it. He goes, well, Johnny, you know, I can’t give him a full time job. He says, exactly. Gave him my ID and in that building, everybody, we knew after five hours, we can walk off the clock. If you wanted us, you was going to give us OT. So sometimes, you know, when you’re a leader, you got to, even though you don’t want to, you got to step up to show the people, listen, [00:42:30] I’m going to stand for what I believe in.

[00:42:32] Cause I will members look and see, Oh, if I would’ve got fired. Uh, see he’s gonna fight, but when I came back It was like, all right, the union got our 

[00:42:42] Bianca Cunniingham: backs. That’s the power. That’s the 

[00:42:45] Richard Hooker Jr.: power. Well, well, Chris knows, uh, I stay in trouble. Yes. Especially in the, um, the teamsters, the teamsters world. You wouldn’t be in trouble if you wasn’t doing something right.

[00:42:55] That is true. That is true. Um, so, so, [00:43:00] I am the next generation. I’m, I’m, when, when Chris started. Um, I was about seven, eight years old, so, um, I wasn’t around for the 97 strike. I was still in high school, so I, I am the next, the next generation. So, but like Chris said, though, we, we do have to make sure we reach back and carry those with us.

[00:43:21] Um, because when I, when I first decided to run for office, I was called dumb. And cause of many, many other words too, especially [00:43:30] being this race and gender. And so we had to rise above that. And sometime it’s our own people who tried to stamp out, um, Or, or shut up our voice. I had a shop steward look just like me.

[00:43:45] He told me one day when I was running for office, he said, man, what you should do is go back to the, you know, that executive board and ask for forgiveness. That’s what he told me. Look me in my face. I was like, wow, [00:44:00] this is a brother, a brother, brother. And he’s telling me that I should go back and tell the executive board that I should ask for forgiveness.

[00:44:08] And this is the mindset of a lot of our Teamster members, Teamster’s officials. They don’t want your usual voice. They don’t want you to challenge them. And I think in order for us to reach back. And, and bring that next generation, they’re going to have to see in us that ability to speak truth to power, [00:44:30] stand on your morals, don’t be pushed or bullied.

[00:44:34] And that’s why I’m in trouble now and within the teamsters because I refuse to go along with the get along. I refuse to bow. Because of that, because that will put me here and that’s what’s going to keep me here. And so I think what we need to do when we start talking to the younger people, younger generation, cause you see they ain’t taking nothing from nobody.

[00:44:54] They not. And so they need to see that in their leadership as well. If we want to continue [00:45:00] that, Hey man, don’t take it from the, the, the company. Don’t take it from your officials. Make sure you do the right thing. Speaking your own name. Be true, be honest, be transparent and you’ll be all right. So I think we have to make sure that we teach that to the youth that’s coming behind us.

[00:45:19] Cause I didn’t have that. I learned the hard way. I was told go ask for forgiveness. That didn’t 

[00:45:26] Chris Williamson: work for me. As you can see. You asked what made it [00:45:30] more important for the fight for the part timers. I think that when Sean and Freddie got in the office, they did a world tour where they was visiting every local.

[00:45:42] And as they was visiting the locals, they was asking the members, what do you want? What do you need? So they, I think they heard and they seen, not just heard, but they was in the buildings. Sean impressed me a [00:46:00] few times, but this man has a lot of pep in his step. He came to the building and he was up the ladder quicker than I was.

[00:46:10] He was in every truck. He shook everybody’s hand on that shift. All right. He didn’t want to miss one question. We got to go over there. We didn’t go over there yet. I’m like, oh man, and I’m following him and I’m, I’m like, I do this every night and he’s up and down. Boom, boom, boom. Like he’s in fit. [00:46:30] He’s in shape.

[00:46:30] So him talking to the membership him and Fred gave him an understanding that what we needed for this contract And I think that was the best thing that ever happened because when hopper was there hopper wasn’t going to no trailer No, he wasn’t going to no building. No, he was you know i’m saying he so when they see the top person And charge and he’s coming down and he’s shaking your hand and he was in mass vote the first time And the guys [00:47:00] was like, well, we need this this and that this and that oh, we’re gonna get it He goes well, I don’t know.

[00:47:07] He’s gonna build a national committee. So me thinking like, you know, he just won’t smoke people’s eyes But when they did the national committee, I got a letter saying we need you to come down So i’m like god this man wasn’t joking and he’s not just a president to sit there and say i’m the president And y’all do this, the man was in a room with [00:47:30] us changing language, which was impressive.

[00:47:33] And I asked people, because this is my first time sitting on a national, was this done before? And he was like, Nope. No. This is the best thing that ever happened. He broke everything, everything down into committees, safety committee, inside committee, driver’s committee. And it gave us the opportunity to go toe to toe with the company and then bring it back to the front room and tell them what’s going on.

[00:47:57] So, by him, I think, [00:48:00] doing that world tour to all the locals was the best thing that ever happened. 

[00:48:05] Bianca Cunniingham: I just want to shout both of you out, um, because I know that Both of you all have really active locals, locals who work closely with the community, who work closely with young people, with young activists. I think both of your locals have a relationship with your local DSA and has been able to, you know, have a lot of work come out of that.

[00:48:24] And so what I see is two dynamic brothers, leaders, [00:48:30] really using innovative approaches to try to broaden what we mean by this union strong thing. So just really big hats off to you all for that. I was, can you talk a little bit about, like, I think I met both of you all in the TDU teamsters for a democratic union, black caucus.

[00:48:46] Can you talk a little bit about the importance of just black caucuses, spaces for black leadership, you know, what, what you’ve seen as far as like, what’s been useful. 

[00:48:56] Richard Hooker Jr.: Well, it’s, it’s important for. I think, especially now, [00:49:00] in this day and age, for, um, black people to have their own space, because we have some things that are very unique to our, um, upbringing, um, to our history, and to our experience that no other People have, and I think the Teamsters, as much as I love them, they have a very hard time embracing that idea of, uh, of black leadership.

[00:49:29] If you [00:49:30] look at the history of the Teamsters, there has never been, in the whole hundred plus years, um, a, uh, black, General president. I don’t even think that there’s been more than maybe two or three that sat on the general executive board at one time. Um, so they’re there and as well as women, um, maybe one or two at a time [00:50:00] that sits on a G.

[00:50:01] E. B. So there’s still some some work to be done there. When you talk about diversity and inclusiveness, I think that’s where we need to really In order for us to move the organization further, when you talk about organizing Amazon and the Walmarts and the targets, those workers need to be, they need to see themselves in the leadership.

[00:50:22] It needs to be reflective in the leadership and, and, and I don’t [00:50:30] understand why the teams are so afraid of, of that, especially when, when you see the, the young. Organizers and activists, they’re people of color, generally. Right? Chris Smalls, the black man, the brother from Trader Joe’s, black man, you know?

[00:50:49] So I think hopefully one day, soon, um, and I think this is why they, they, They don’t like me too much in the team. Since Chris would tell you, because this is, this is what I think [00:51:00] we need to, um, talk about, because if you really want to go out to Amazon, if you really want to go and get these, these entrenched companies who don’t like unions, the leadership is going to have to have a culture shock and it’s going to have to start reflecting those workers.

[00:51:18] Who are, um, undervalued, who are, come from these poor communities. That’s why we do the work, as you, you talked about, Bianca. I was out there marching on [00:51:30] gun violence, one o’clock in the morning. Last week. It’s important to me. You know why? Because one of my members son got shot and killed. One of my members just got robbed.

[00:51:40] It’s important to me to show my members that yeah, pension funds are important. Your health care is important. Your contract is important. But you, you are a union member, not from nine to five. You are a union member every day and gun violence is important to you because you just lost a loved one. It’s important to me too.[00:52:00] 

[00:52:00] When COVID hit and our part timers who have other full time jobs may, you know, lost a job because it went out of business. They’re full time job. You know, we did here. We set up a food bank Come on down and get some food because we know that you don’t have the resources to get the food because you just lost your job and Even though I know we don’t have any say over your other job.

[00:52:25] You still a union member. You still pay union dues We still care. We [00:52:30] care more about you outside of work Then just at work, we want to make sure when you go home, you’re not dodging bullets, want to make sure that you can get those pampers and you can get that baby formula, you know? So that’s what we do.

[00:52:42] And, and I hope one day the teamsters, instead of shunning that, we embrace that so we can appeal to more workers. Really, 

[00:52:52] Jamala Rogers: all the labor movement. Yeah, while you were talking, um, I was flashing back to, uh, during the [00:53:00] Ferguson uprising, uh, when Richard Trumka came into town, uh, and he asked to pull together some of the leaders of, uh, the uprising.

[00:53:09] And so one of the things that he said at the table is we are going, we meaning the, uh, labor movement. We’re going to have to put racial justice at the center. And I’m thinking, okay, that’s easier said than done. And so I appreciate, you know, uh, the, that kind of [00:53:30] observation and, and, and affirmation. But then I said, I need to start asking the folks in these, uh, unions across the country, how did that, how does that look now that the head man said, we’re going to put racial justice.

[00:53:42] At the center of the labor movement, because it has to start with the locals. You have to start, as you said, looking at the composition of the leadership. You have to look at, you know, who’s getting the perks. I mean, all of that is part of the racial justice piece. So do you think that in fact, [00:54:00] the, uh, the Teamsters have put racial justice at the center of their organizing work?

[00:54:05] Richard Hooker Jr.: Absolutely not. And they’re not, and they’re not going to. Um, they’re not, um, when, when Dr. Cooper, um, and, um, Marcus King, they were members of the HRDC, um, unit that the teachers have. And I, I can’t remember it was, I can’t remember what happened, but it was when one of our brothers got killed. So they wanted to have a [00:54:30] black lives matter rally at the headquarters, wouldn’t even open up for them to use the bathroom.

[00:54:37] Now, here you go. Here’s the Teamsters. We talk about unity. We talk about an inclusiveness. We talk about fighting for this, fighting for that. But here you have two principal officers where I think Crystal Rivera was down there too. Here you go. You have three black principal officers holding a rally. For black lives after what [00:55:00] everybody saw with George Floyd, and we can’t even go into the, to the building that we pay for our dues money paid for.

[00:55:08] Chris Williamson: And that’s when I don’t, I wouldn’t, I wouldn’t say that that’s coming from the top. I would say there’s locals that need to take back the locals. If that was me. And I was a member and you wouldn’t let me use the bathroom. Then [00:55:30] I know that we need change in that local. Okay. It happened to me. 

[00:55:35] Richard Hooker Jr.: This wasn’t at the local, this was at the IBT headquarters.

[00:55:38] Chris Williamson: And they wouldn’t let y’all use the bathroom? No, it was closed 

[00:55:41] Richard Hooker Jr.: up. That’s what I’m saying. That’s, that’s what I’m saying. So when our sister Jamala asked about that until, and I’m not talking about. I’m talking about the system until the system changes at the IBT where it’s more inclusive, where it’s more diverse, where people are not [00:56:00] afraid of disagreements because we may speak a different language until that changes.

[00:56:05] We can have a hundred black lives matter, LGBTQ, we can have whatever until that system changes. This organization will not move to where it needs to move and we’ll be still outside trying to go into the bathroom. Wow. 

[00:56:24] Jamala Rogers: That says it all. You can’t go to the bathroom. That’s some of the most [00:56:30] basic 

[00:56:31] Chris Williamson: of human rights.

[00:56:31] Wouldn’t even open it up. 

[00:56:33] Richard Hooker Jr.: Everybody, everybody in this country saw what happened to our brother, George Floyd. Everybody. Dr. Cooper was out there. Other black press officers was out there. Wouldn’t even let them go in the building that I’m dues paid for. But that’s where we are at as a team. Since organization tell that system chain.

[00:56:54] I’m again, I’m not talking about people because the people have [00:57:00] either benefited from the system or use the system. That system has to change. And until that happens. We’re not going to be where we need to be. 

[00:57:08] Chris Williamson: Well, can I say something on that, though? Go ahead, Chris. Being at the, um, IBT for about two and a half months, um, we know that there’s a lot of minorities there that work in the kitchen and all of that.

[00:57:21] In the kitchen? In the kitchen, maintaining the building and all that. We started talking to them. When [00:57:30] Sean got in there, they got the biggest raise they ever had. They started telling me stories that was pissing me off, that when Hoffa was there, They had to get out the elevator. Okay. Say what? When Hoffa got in the elevator, they had to get They like had to leave 

[00:57:46] Bianca Cunniingham: the 

[00:57:46] Chris Williamson: elevator and got in?

[00:57:47] Yes. Wow. So, when I’m listening to them, and I’m like, well, how is it now? They’re like, well, Sean speaks to us. We don’t have to get out the [00:58:00] elevator if Sean is there. Sean comes in the lunchroom and eat with them. You know what I’m saying? So I’m like, well, is there a difference? They say, yeah, we can talk and we can joke with them.

[00:58:12] When Hoffa was there, they couldn’t speak to him, right? So I, I think, you know, yeah, so I’m looking at it from what I’ve seen for two and a half months. And I’m sitting there like, they would have had to throw me out cause there ain’t no way I’m getting out of the elevator cause you got in there. You gonna either ride in [00:58:30] the elevator with me or you gonna wait, you know what I’m saying?

[00:58:33] So hearing these stories that the members was telling us and they was like, yo, it’s a pleasure to work there that Fred and Sean is there now. Because they made it seem like it’s a family now. It’s not because you order you can’t I can’t speak to you You know what i’m saying? It’s not because you work in the kitchen.

[00:58:50] I can’t speak to you He’s going in a joke and he’s you know, so I mean Do things have to change? Yes, we all need [00:59:00] part to make it change Is things going to change overnight? No, no, it’s not going to change overnight Right. But I think, you know, we have to give him an opportunity to prove himself to the contract.

[00:59:13] He started. There’s a lot of locals. They’re still stuck on the old ways. Right. And the members need to get rid of them. There’s nothing wrong with that. If you can’t give me, if you can’t support me, you should not be running a local. [00:59:30] Okay. I mean, when we was in Florida at the TNBC conference. You know, and Sean said it.

[00:59:37] What’s TNBC? TNBC. TNBC. Sean asked Vinny to send some members that speak Spanish to Florida because the locals have issues because they didn’t have a business agent that speaks Spanish. And I’m getting dressed to go to a session and Keoma [01:00:00] called me and she goes, what are you doing? I said, well, she go, I need you to come right now.

[01:00:04] I said, why? She said, cause the print, she says, one of these BAs is talking reckless. And I hear him like, we don’t need you here, this and that. So me being who I am from Brooklyn. And that’s one of my sisters. I call all my guys. It was 10 of us dropped in two SUVs and an Uber there. And when we got there, he went in the building, he would not come out.

[01:00:28] And I called Sean and I [01:00:30] said, yo, he goes, do what you gotta do. You know what I’m saying? He goes, because the local needs help. And my thing was that I finally got in contact with the principal officer. Here in New York, you’re not going to disrespect a woman under us. That is not going to happen. I says, your VA could have handled that different.

[01:00:48] He’s in a leadership position. He could ask who’s, who’s in charge, pull them to the side, and they should have made the calls that they need to make. No woman should be disrespected. [01:01:00] But I can say 10 years ago, I would have never had half a number. And if I didn’t, I called him. He wouldn’t answer it. I see Sean here and there.

[01:01:12] He gave me his number two years ago. He said, you ever need something? Give me a call. That was the first time I called that man and he picked up the phone. So I mean, leadership is changing. If people are going to make mistakes. Yes. [01:01:30] Um, and nobody’s perfect, but we have to give them an opportunity to see what he can do.

[01:01:35] And if he do something wrong, then we have to check them. We’re not going to stand by and say, Oh, well, you know, we have to let them know what you did is wrong. But I feel that there’s a lot of locals that they’re run by the old dog and they got to go. Oh, y’all got to go. Okay. We got to put somebody in here.

[01:01:56] Younger, hungry, more [01:02:00] ideas is not scared of the company because UPS is built on being a bully. And as long as they can bully you or the union, they control what they’re doing. So it’s time. And I mean, TDU, I give them the blessing. They have helped a whole lot of locals. Get rid of the old dog. Oh, yo. All right.

[01:02:23] They’ve educated people.[01:02:30] 

[01:02:30] Jamala Rogers: I haven’t heard that expression in a while. Oh, yeah. 

[01:02:33] Chris Williamson: Educated people. That showed them how to run for office and that’s the most important thing. I can say this woman’s committee 

[01:02:43] Jamala Rogers: Chris listen to this Everybody in those local probably knows new leadership is needed and absolutely necessary But has there been a pathway made for folks to assume those positions?

[01:02:59] Because I’m [01:03:00] thinking, in the locals that I’ve seen that operate like that, they absolutely crush any kind of emerging leadership. So how do you encourage people in that kind of toxic environment that they have a right to assume leadership 

[01:03:15] Chris Williamson: positions? You introduce them to Richie Loca. Richard Hooker. Yeah.

[01:03:20] Richard Hooker. He’s a 

[01:03:23] Richard Hooker Jr.: celebrity. Yeah. You can’t, you can’t, you can’t be afraid because that’s what we had to do here. We, when we [01:03:30] first ran in 2016, of course, all we heard about was the race thing because there’s never been an African American leader here ever in the entire existence. So all we heard was race, race, race.

[01:03:41] Then it was not smart enough. Um, then it was, um, those stereotypical thing. All they want is money and cars, um, and women, right? So we had to fight all that. So when we first ran in 2016, um, we, we lost by 37 slate votes. [01:04:00] My eyes opened up like, wow, we were not supposed to be that close. So what we did was we just stayed at it.

[01:04:06] We talked about the issues. We didn’t talk about the people in office. We talked about what the company was doing and why we’re not fighting back. And that’s all we did. We still had to talk about the race, but when you start talking about how people not making no money, people losing money, The contract is not being enforced.

[01:04:26] People stop, stop focus on you being black or white. They [01:04:30] start focusing on that green did not get you. And that’s all we started talking about. Hey man, did you know these guys went along with a classification that going to get paid 6 less? For doing the same job, did you know that, you know, um, you, you’re going to have to wait two extra years to get top pay.

[01:04:50] You start focusing on that green. It ain’t us. We’re not doing it. It’s the people who you keep putting in there so you can keep focusing on my color all you want to. [01:05:00] But the other reason why you losing green, not me. And then. And then we also had to really be political, even though I hate politics, that stereotype was still in people’s minds.

[01:05:11] So, you know what? Since I’m a black man, he went about me making money. I’m going to take a pay cut. You want about me getting the, the, the lease cars, you can keep your car. We just want to do the job. Wow. So now we’ve taken the fact that the stereotypes about the money. Um, we took the stereotype about the, the, the, the car.

[01:05:29] I’m a [01:05:30] married man, so I ain’t out here chasing no women. So now what’s your excuse going to be? I’m making less money, don’t want the car, and I’m faithful to my wife. What are you going to do? And that’s how we did it. And it kept constantly talking about that. Boom! 

[01:05:44] Bianca Cunniingham: But you shouldn’t have to do that. We 

[01:05:47] Chris Williamson: shouldn’t have to, but again, This is the system.

[01:05:50] If you want change, though, you have to change it. Yes. Okay. So we have people of color like to complain, [01:06:00] but they don’t want to get into the fight. Okay. So we can’t say, you can’t sit here and say, Oh, the white man’s holding me down all the time. Right. Because yes, a closed mouth don’t get fed. If you see something wrong, then you go change it.

[01:06:15] All right. I tell a story all the time when, when, when, how, when Ron, when Ron left, Howie Redman became the president. And I started this thing called the breakfast club, right? And we was educating everybody [01:06:30] from all 17 buildings, right? I asked the president, can I use the local to educate our brothers and sisters?

[01:06:41] Told me no. So one day I got a call and someone said, go to your local. I said, for what? Just go to your local. I went to local and he was written the local out to another local, but wouldn’t give it to me. Right. Wow. So you know what I tell people? I’m the vice president of local 804 [01:07:00] now. I got the keys to my local

[01:07:06] Okay, that’s how you make change you don’t like something you change it I can give any, you know, some people are like, Oh, well, you know, you should be the president. Listen, I don’t need to be the president. We got one of the best presidents there is. If something ain’t broke, don’t try to fix it. Right? I’m not running for president.

[01:07:25] He’s doing a damn good job. I don’t want his job. He got too much on his plate. But at the [01:07:30] same time, though, what he did was when he got in office, he sat me down and said, I need three committees. I need a women’s committee, a retirement committee, and a breakfast club for the part timers. And we created all three committees.

[01:07:45] All right, and we’re trying to educate everybody, right? We understand We need more women in power We need to focus on these young kids because they are the future And we can’t forget about the retirees because that’s how we got what we act [01:08:00] Okay, a lot of locals ain’t doing what vinny’s doing. Okay, but I would tell any brother out there If you don’t like what your local is doing change it do what rich did did what we did at 804, right?

[01:08:15] It wasn’t about a color thing in 804, it was, we felt that they was giving back too much to this motherfucking company, excuse my French. I got tired of getting raped by this company. I’m busting my butt. I’m going home. I’m not seeing my kids. I’m missing [01:08:30] plays and all that. Things had to change. So if you’re in a local, right, and you feel that all yellow needs to be put out, then you go get you a shotgun and put all yellow out.

[01:08:43] Right. You run what you believe in. Right. I don’t want to see, and I’m big on this. I want to see a person of color put somewhere that don’t know what they’re doing. Okay. Let’s stop. Let’s not say let’s put people in color because they color [01:09:00] of color. I want the best. There you go. The best man or woman who’s going to fight for everybody.

[01:09:08] That’s not going to look at color before I was brothers and sisters out there. If you want change, because think about it, slavery, we just didn’t become free. We have to fight for it and not everybody was out there fighting, you know what I’m saying? But when we got free, everybody said, we free. But where was you at when we was getting beat?

[01:09:29] [01:09:30] And 

[01:09:31] Richard Hooker Jr.: I also piggyback on what you were saying too, is this, um, when, when one of us do ascend to that level and we’re doing the job, let’s make sure that we lift that brother or sister up. And not tear them down because we, we have, for whatever reason, and I don’t know where it came from, especially after what our ancestors has been through.

[01:09:59] I don’t [01:10:00] know why when one of us make it, we have the, the, the, we have a need to whatever reason to tear that brother and sister down. I have no idea why. Especially knowing how hard it is. For us to get there, Chris, I know how hard it was for you to get there. You know, how hard it was for me to get here, right?

[01:10:20] So no matter what we agree or disagree on, you know, when there’s a fight, I’m going to show up for you and you’re going to show up for me. We know [01:10:30] that because we know how hard it is, but for, for others who have. Issues with uplifting each other, we, we really got to really focus on that because it, it is very difficult, especially as a person of color in these positions, it’s a very lonely place because there’s not many of us, especially in the teams.

[01:10:51] You’re talking about over 400 or semi locals and only about 13 or 14 POs of color, uh, 400 [01:11:00] and some. So it’s a very lonely position. So we don’t have time or the resources to be pulling each other down. Yeah other folks are going to do that for us. We we shouldn’t we don’t need that 

[01:11:12] Chris Williamson: So those 

[01:11:12] Jamala Rogers: numbers y’all need to 

[01:11:13] Chris Williamson: be pushing more people up.

[01:11:14] Well, we we gotta we got a brother named willie floyd Who’s a vp? and and When we did the contract I sit down and I ate with that man Pretty much every day. All right. Old school [01:11:30] dude. Very well mannered. And I was getting his education and he was like, well, why are you, I’m trying to get education from you.

[01:11:37] I said, no, I’m trying to get education from you and we’re building off of one another. Right. Right. And that was the most important thing. But like people like Willie Ford is not spoken about Christopher is not spoken about, you know what I’m saying? It’s a lot of black leaders out there that can’t Dorian stone.

[01:11:53] Another brothers are up and coming. These people believe in the labor movement, and we need to help [01:12:00] push them up. I’m not going to be here forever. And I’ve always told my members, if there’s somebody better than me, I’ll take a back seat and help you out. But I’m not going to give you the spot and you do nothing with it.

[01:12:13] Yeah. Right. Right. 

[01:12:15] Bianca Cunniingham: Yeah. So we’re almost out of time, but I want to make sure we get this next, uh, topic in. So y’all, y’all probably know I work in Tennessee. So I work with a bunch of Teamsters locals in Tennessee on our bargaining for the common good project. One of the things that we had to [01:12:30] lobby for as a coalition this year, or lobby against rather, at the Tennessee legislature was self driving trucks.

[01:12:36] And the ability to have one driver and one truck in the very front and pull a whole platoon of trucks, uh, without drivers behind. Very dangerous. I’m happy to say that we successfully beat that back. And so we don’t have that, but we know it’s coming. So how are you all thinking about like the future of work, those kinds of threats?

[01:12:55] Um, you know, going forward in your, in your fight. 

[01:12:59] Chris Williamson: Well, 

[01:12:59] Jamala Rogers: [01:13:00] I have to say that beyond that, not just, not just the driverless trucks, but also the role that AI could play in some of those other jobs, you know, positions that you 

[01:13:09] Chris Williamson: have. I think I’m on the IBT level. I think Sean and them put a technology committee together to try to get ahead of this stuff, which was never done before.

[01:13:19] Before when Hoffa was there was let UPS do what they’re doing and then we react now as we see this coming How’s this gonna affect the jobs in the future? [01:13:30] All right, so he has a team that’s doing that. I think that’s outstanding Um, we gotta also make sure that we back Certain bills to protect our jobs when it comes to safety I know Rich does that.

[01:13:46] I know Chris does that. Vinny, um, shout out to our brothers in, um, Albany. When we go up there, they take us to the Capitol. We need to also, it’s not, it’s also about the labor movement, but we got [01:14:00] to make these politicians that beg for our votes and then do nothing. There’s no more, you’re going to get a vote and do nothing.

[01:14:08] You’re going to get a vote and you’re going to give us what we want, or we’re going to get rid of you. There’s no more free rides right now. We don’t suffer enough. Right? If not now, we ain’t gonna never get it. So we need to start fighting now stop looking for the handout a closed mouth don’t get fed.

[01:14:24] You don’t like something Yep, say something say something. All right, you got to get involved. [01:14:30] You got to help your brother and sister out All right, like rich says we tend to tear one another down Push one another up. All right. That’s what we have to do. We got to push one another up and also educate, right?

[01:14:46] Anytime I’m on Facebook, it’s four locals. That’s always popping up. 7 0 5 7 10 8 0 4 6 23. All right. You don’t see these other locals rise [01:15:00] up cause you’re going to get left in New York. We let them know if you ain’t coming to the table to fight, we don’t want you there because we’re going to be at every fight.

[01:15:10] We’re coming with a knife. And a fork because we ain’t taking crumbs no more and it’s time for the working people to rise up

[01:15:22] Richard Hooker Jr.: So I think I think um also I think we have to work with other industries that are also [01:15:30] impacted by ais Like if you look at this, um this writer strike, I mean they’re talking about putting in a um A sentence and have the ai Write the whole script Right. And then, like you just said to Bianca about having drive or automation in, in our warehouses and all these kinds of things, Carol Tomei was actually on CNBC the other day talking about having a robot unload the trailer.

[01:15:59] So, you [01:16:00] know, they already are planning to outsource us with this AI and automation and robots. But what we have to do, I think is collectively. Get with everybody who’s impacted by this A. I. And then we also have to organize these people who are, um, introducing this A. I. That’s something I was thinking about earlier.

[01:16:21] I mean, we talk about U. P. S. And everything and what they do. But what would happen if we organize U. P. S. Well, UPS is already, um, [01:16:30] organized under the team. So what happens if we get Amazon, the Walmarts, the targets, the FedEx and all that kind of thing, then we will be positioned better to win against stuff like automation, AI, and all that, because we’re, we’re organizing all of.

[01:16:50] The competition, because what happens if FedEx, UPS, Amazon, everybody’s under a, a, a teamster contract or in a union, we [01:17:00] all go out on strike and say, man, we ain’t doing nothing. 

[01:17:02] Bianca Cunniingham: That’s the whole 

[01:17:03] Richard Hooker Jr.: logistical. We ain’t doing nothing. If you introduce this automation and this AI and stuff, good luck to you.

[01:17:09] Chris Williamson: Cause when Amazon is heading that they leave in that AI. Yeah. And I feel, I see for, uh, down the road, everybody might have to take action against Amazon. And if everybody did not order Sutton for one week, we’ll cripple him.[01:17:30] 

[01:17:32] Bianca Cunniingham: How serious is Amazon? Like I hear, I’ve heard like little starts and fits about Teamsters wanting a piece of Amazon. I know you all have worked in New York with Chris Smalls and the Amazon labor union at different points. Chris, like, yeah. Like what can we expect as far as like the branch out of Amazon, Target, these other places that you’re talking about, Richard.

[01:17:53] Chris Williamson: Well, Randy, 

[01:17:54] Richard Hooker Jr.: well, so. Oh, go ahead. All right. So we’ve, we’ve been doing some, um, behind the [01:18:00] scenes work with Amazon because we have eight buildings here in our area. And so what we’ve been doing is we’ve been working with all eight buildings, building that power, that, that coalition, um, not, not just talking about joining the teamsters.

[01:18:16] But hey, you have power. If you join together, even if you don’t join the teamsters, if you, if you do X, Y, and Z, then you will have more power on the shop floor. You maybe get certain things. And if you want to [01:18:30] join our local, that’s fine. But we’re not here to tell you what to do. We’re here to show you there’s a better way to get what your members or your workers demand and deserve.

[01:18:40] So that’s what we’ve been doing to you. For our, our members here because we have so many Amazon buildings, um, here that just popped up out of nowhere. Um, we got one right next to our Oregon Avenue UPS building right next door. Wow. And so we’ve been talking to them. Like I said, it’s been moving very, very [01:19:00] quickly and very, very well.

[01:19:01] Um, we’ve been doing a lot of Job actions behind the scenes. People don’t, we don’t post everything on social media. You know, we don’t let the right hand know what the left hand is doing because we know there’s some people who do not want us to be successful. And so we gotta be careful with that as well.

[01:19:17] So we’ve been doing a lot of work with these Amazon workers and it’s, and it’s going well. And we, uh, we’re trying to organize everybody. If you, if you are a worker, we want you to have a union contract with, or without. [01:19:30] You know, whether it be 623 or whatever, you need to be in a union. If you, if you’re a worker, you need a union to understand 

[01:19:40] Chris Williamson: the importance of this UPS contract.

[01:19:42] It’s that it set the standards for the world. Yes. All right So it’s showing amazon workers too because believe it or not amazon Thank you, because a lot of your workers are coming back to us. All right, they see what we’re making Um, they see the medical they see the [01:20:00] pension you get right so it sets the tone And at one point again We might have to go back to the 80s and the 90s and whatnot if it wasn’t made by a union We shouldn’t get it All right, why are we supporting people that’s not supporting the unions, you know, you got starbucks They still don’t have a contract right?

[01:20:23] So maybe if everybody just say you know what? We’re not going to buy no starbuck coffee until you sit down with these [01:20:30] workers And come up with a contract because we the members have the power The people who buy this stuff have the power So at one point we need to exercise our power and let these corporate I call them greedy bastards And whatnot because all they want is all the money but they don’t want to share with the workers We have the power to shut them down.

[01:20:54] So Starbucks we coming for you amazon. The workers are [01:21:00] coming for you. All right, new york You already know it’s a union town Okay, we need to start going down south organizing all these companies because without a union The average man and woman does not get a fair shake. The more people we organize, we stay at the Sanders.

[01:21:19] And this is what you should be making. It is no reason why Carol was making 19 million. And then have the audacity to say that the part time shouldn’t get a raise. [01:21:30] Did she fall on her head?

[01:21:34] That’s what it sounds like. Did y’all see the video where she acted like she was working? Touching the sitting box like six times. Like, old lady, go, go to your office before you break a 

[01:21:45] Bianca Cunniingham: hip. They really do the most. They really do the most. So. Any last words, Jamala? 

[01:21:53] Jamala Rogers: Uh, no, I guess I’m, I’m just impressed to know that, you know, we got these kind of [01:22:00] fight, fighters out there, these kind of, uh, union warriors, because I think for a lot of people who are, uh, looking at the union, they see corruption of the international, uh, leaders.

[01:22:15] They see folks capitulating to the. companies, and they say, Well, what’s the point of a union? But I think you all have, you know, dramatized the importance of a union, not just for the sake of unionizing, [01:22:30] but what it brings to workers and their families and ultimately their communities. So thank you for what you all 

[01:22:36] Chris Williamson: have been doing.

[01:22:36] We also got Bianca. She’s still a Teamster. 

[01:22:42] Bianca Cunniingham: I’m an honorary Teamster. I got all the good merch. I got a 

[01:22:46] Jamala Rogers: license to Teamster. I’m always a Teamster. Yeah, that’s 

[01:22:48] Bianca Cunniingham: right. And I would say that, you know, as a young person in the labor movement, being able to work and, and See the good stuff that you all are doing really gives me hope, even when, as Jamal has said, it [01:23:00] doesn’t feel like it’s the place for me.

[01:23:01] I know it’s the place for me because we’re all fighting for it to be the place that we belong. And so I just really appreciate you all’s leadership, um, the way you show up and just want to say thank you for taking the time to speak with us today. 

[01:23:16] Chris Williamson: Thank you. Thank you for having me.

[01:23:24] Bianca Cunniingham: So that was fun having Richard Hooker Jr. and Chris Williamson on the show to talk [01:23:30] about the Teamsters. So much to unpack from that conversation. I was really glad that they brought up the issues about the tears and the part time because I think oftentimes, like, I think, wow. These tiers are really going to be like the death of the union, right?

[01:23:47] Because if you have people that don’t have the same stakes or don’t have the same things on the line, when the fight comes, you can’t expect for everybody to fight together. Right. And so I just feel like it’s one of the union busting [01:24:00] tactics is like getting, um, you know, that tiered, um, pay. And so I’m really glad that they, you know, focused on winning more for the part timers, understanding that that was going to be the future, you know, of the workforce.

[01:24:12] For sure. 

[01:24:14] Jamala Rogers: Yeah. It, it seems like they, those two in particular are doing all the right things. I mean, uh, they seem to be very active in community issues. Uh, because I think that’s for, for me, one of the things I don’t see enough of, you know, that there’s these [01:24:30] silos that sometimes unions create. So, um, I don’t think it’s necessary when your members are part of a community somewhere.

[01:24:37] So if you’re not involved with some of those issues then I don’t see where the solidarity is going to come when you need somebody. But the other thing is just the use of, you know, social media and, and helping to control their own narrative as well as helping to inform the public. Um, because I think for unions, if they don’t use social media, we have no way of knowing [01:25:00] unless we are, um, Uh, in a family of a union member to know what really is going on.

[01:25:04] So by them really keeping us informed and knowing what the issues are and knowing how they could, we could support them. I think all of that’s very important. 

[01:25:13] Bianca Cunniingham: Yeah. Like I said, like, yeah, oftentimes I remember like being in my own union organizing process and feeling like we’re doing all this to fight this giant company.

[01:25:23] Why isn’t corporate media picking this up? Why is it, you know, where are the, you know, all the news outlets and then, you know, not [01:25:30] understanding that they’re all part of that system too of like, you know, shushing workers and we, you know, come to find out CNN had their own labor dispute, you know, over the course of a decade.

[01:25:39] So no wonder they’re not covering unions. And so it’s really important. for, you know, us to use social media. Like I said, I got all my updates through tick tock because it’s like we get to set our own narrative, you know, talk about it from the perspective of the workers. And I think, you know, most people in the United States are workers.

[01:25:56] Like they understand, you know, what the [01:26:00] issues are and experience some of the same disrespect, lack of dignity. et cetera, et cetera, et cetera in their own workplaces. And so I just feel like it’s super relatable and they made it, um, to where people really, like, like you said, like knew what was going on and could, um, you know, show support, you know, for them.

[01:26:17] And I’m also just thinking about like the conversation, like you said, like, it seems like they’re doing everything right. Like I know I’m from New York, you know, Chris and I, you know, we see each other and, you know, we organize together. Like one of the things, like when they had, you know, all those [01:26:30] wildfires from Canada.

[01:26:31] And, you know, the air started getting hazy and everything. I mean, Teamsters were outside passing out thousands of masks just to the public because they realized people were walking in this toxic air and just didn’t even have, you know, PPE had been long gone from COVID. So it’s just small things like that.

[01:26:47] Just having a presence in the community is so important. Seeing their workers as whole workers, not just workers from nine to five, like he said, I think is like. really how we all ought to see workers, you know, in the future [01:27:00] for the labor movement. And also just this heartbreak thing that Black folks have with unions, which the same thing that we have with our country, the same thing that we have with any institution almost, which is like, we love them and they don’t love us back.

[01:27:12] Right. And so it’s like, I always get the question, you know, why as a Black woman, you experience all this racism, all this, you know, sexism, et cetera. Why do you still go so hard for the union? But I’m like, because I really believe in the union difference and regardless of the individuals who are in power, I [01:27:30] really think that the structure could work.

[01:27:32] Like, you know, like the idea of it is the thing that we’re investing in, not the reality of what it might be at this moment. And so we’re investing in the future of what we want to see in the labor movement. Um, but that can sometimes be hard and, and I appreciate them being really honest about their own experiences.

[01:27:50] Jamala Rogers: Yeah, I’m just thinking though, when people say, why are you in the union, you almost have to have that teachable moment for you to do the history of unions. And so I have [01:28:00] to remind people, how do you think you got a 40 hour week? How do you think you, you know, because some people think that that just came automatically with these companies.

[01:28:09] They felt like they needed to do that, but it was unions that made that happen. And so when I think about that piece where we’ve come, and I also. I saw how visionary Chris and, and, uh, Brother Hooker were about looking at Amazon, FedEx, and bringing them into the fold. That’s very encouraging. 

[01:28:29] Bianca Cunniingham: That’s [01:28:30] the key.

[01:28:30] Side note, I feel like we need to rebrand ourselves though as labor when we’re like, we gave the 40 hour work week and the blah blah blah, because people now are like, can we get three day work week? And I feel like we need to say, They didn’t want us to have it. We fought for it and we’ll fight for a four day or a three day work week when the time comes to, you know, you need to 

[01:28:51] Jamala Rogers: be, 

[01:28:51] Bianca Cunniingham: that’s right.

[01:28:53] That’s right. That is right. 

[01:28:56] Jamala Rogers: But that was a great show. I enjoyed hearing them talk [01:29:00] about, and their storytelling too. I 

[01:29:02] Bianca Cunniingham: just really enjoyed hearing them talk about their organizing all day. They could have been there all day. I 

[01:29:09] Jamala Rogers: could, I think I could tell that. Yeah. 

[01:29:12] Bianca Cunniingham: Absolutely.

[01:29:16] Our thanks to Chris Williamson and Richard Hooker Jr. for joining us today. Black Work Talk is published by Convergence, a magazine for radical insights. Executive producer is Xiomara Copeno and Josh Elstro is our producer. I’m [01:29:30] Bianca Cunningham. 

[01:29:31] Jamala Rogers: And I’m Jamilah Rogers. Thanks for listening to Black Work Talk.

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