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  • Article Archives:   Next   of 316 articles

    President Biden Just Protected Pensions!!!!

    In the last election we asked every candidate, regardless of their party affiliation, if they would work to secure our pensions. Then we got to work to elect those who made that promise.

    Democrats in the House and Senate wasted no time fulfilling that promise. The pension plans for millions of Teamsters were already vulnerable and the impact of COVID-19 only worsened the situation, so lawmakers included a solution in the American Relief Plan. And now President Biden just signed it into law — delivering on that promise and securing more than 1.4 million pensions for years to come!

    For more the two decades, the Teamsters – led by General President Jim Hoffa – have been working to secure a pension fix. The union has spent the last six-plus years pushing back on terrible pension legislation enacted in late 2014 that allowed struggling multiemployer pensions to cut earned benefits. [To read more about the Teamsters’ efforts, click here.] Today’s signing brings to a close that chapter and can bring peace-of-mind to workers and retirees who only want to enjoy their golden years.

    “President Biden’s signature on this legislation is the culmination of years of hard work by so many with ties to this union,” Hoffa said. “But no one fought harder than affected members and retirees who attended countless meetings, repeatedly lobbied lawmakers and rallied to the cause. The Teamsters are grateful for their dedication to get this done.”

    The Teamsters also want to thank Rep. Richard Neal (D-Mass.) and Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) for sponsoring legislation and recognize the resolve that Rep. Neal showed by filing pension legislation as his first act when he became chairman of the House Ways & Means Committee.

    Listen to this special edition of the Teamsters Podcast and hear how President Biden and Congress delivered pension relief to more than 1 million Americans after years of lobbying on the issue by the Teamsters.

    As part of the ARP, more than 50 Teamster pension plans – including its largest, the Central States Pension Fund – are eligible for assistance at the outset of the bill’s enactment, with more of the union’s plans becoming eligible in 2022. Under the measure, money to assist eligible plans will come directly from the U.S. Treasury Department in the form of grants which would not need to be repaid. Plan participants will receive 100 percent of their earned pension benefits. The culmination of those efforts came rather swiftly after many previous starts and stops that had at times raised the hopes of affected families, only to dash them again. The President, working with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, had promised to tackle pension reform in the lead up to the 2020 election if given the reins of power. And some 50 days after Biden took office, they did just that.

    “Teamster members told the union as it ramped up its election efforts that pension security was their top concern,” Teamsters General President Jim Hoffa said. “With that in mind, the union put together a plan to help elect President Biden and other lawmakers who promised to prioritize the retirements of hardworking Americans. They followed through with that promise and delivered for us.”

    As part of the ARP, more than 50 Teamster pension plans – including its largest, the Central States Pension Fund – are eligible for assistance at the outset of the bill’s enactment, with more of the union’s plans becoming eligible in 2022. [To read more about how the ARP will help workers, click here.]

    Under the new law, money to assist eligible plans will come directly from the U.S. Treasury Department in the form of grants which would not need to be repaid. Plan participants will receive 100 percent of their earned pension benefits. Affected members and retirees are encouraged to contact their pension fund in the coming days to find out more information specific to their benefits.

    How it Happened

    The COVID-19 stimulus bill that included multiemployer pensions was considered under reconciliation, a legislative process that allowed the Senate to pass the legislation with a simple majority of votes instead of the 60 votes needed under regular rules.

    Under the leadership of House Ways & Means Chairman Richard Neal, a long-time pension reform advocate, pension language was inserted in the broader House bill in committee and cleared legislative attempts to have it removed.

    Teamster members, retirees and officials had spent countless hours in recent years attending meetings, lobbying lawmakers on Capitol Hill and even testifying before Congress trying get elected officials to implement changes that would preserve the retirements they contributed to throughout their working days.

    The Teamsters and other unions had fought off efforts to slash multiemployer pension benefits for struggling plans that would have cut benefits in excess of two-thirds in some cases. The move jeopardized the financial security of hundreds of thousands of retirees and those nearing retirement who had planned to live off their pensions during their golden years.

    Several came to Washington to tell their stories. They were people like Rita Lewis, widow of former Local 100 President Butch Lewis, who told members of the Senate Finance Committee in March 2016 how her husband was so stressed by the efforts to cut benefits to his family and other retirees that it led him to have a massive stroke that killed him. Legislation to save pensions was later named after him.

    “These cuts are hitting us like a ton of bricks and none of us has time to prepare for the cuts or make additional accommodations like we might have done if we were still young,” she said. “It’s cruel to cut our pensions now when few of us can go back to work, leaving us without options to make up the difference in our incomes.”

    Kenny Stribling, a retiree with Local 200 in Wisconsin who also serves as co-chair of the Milwaukee Committee to Protect Pensions, told a similar story to members of the Joint Select Committee on Solvency of Multiemployer Pension Plans when he testified before it in July 2018. He said uncertainty over the financial status of the Central States plan wore on his health and that of his wife, who had terminal cancer at the time. She has since passed away.

    “This is an issue of fairness, of keeping promises to working Americans who did everything right,” he said. “We did our part, forgoing raises and job improvements for our retirement security. And we are simply asking you to preserve what is due to us.”

    Beyond speaking before Congress, Teamsters also came by the thousands to rallies on Capitol Hill in April 2016 and the Ohio State Capitol in Columbus in July 2018 to stress the importance to lawmakers about finding a pension solution that would allow them to support their families.

    And that doesn’t even take into account the Washington, D.C. visits by members and retirees over the past six-plus years that were almost too many to count. Many traveled repeatedly on their own dime to let their elected officials know finding a solution was critical to more than a million hardworking Americans.

    Efforts to reform multiemployer pensions did make progress during the last session of Congress, when a bipartisan collection of members of the House approved legislation in July 2019 to fix them. But the bill languished in the Senate and was never taken up, despite pleas to then-Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to do so.

    Election was Key

    That’s why Teamster members themselves decided they had to make changes at the ballot box as part of the 2020 election to get this done. Many got out on the campaign trail in fall 2019 and let candidates know that pension relief was essential and needed to be supported.

    And candidates in turn responded. All six of those who participated in the Teamsters Presidential Candidate Forum held in Cedar Rapids, Iowa in December 2019 pledged to support pension reforms that would save these hard-earned retirements, including now-President Biden. It was a message Biden would repeat frequently after becoming the Democratic nominee, and even did so in a special video to Teamster members in the closing days of the campaign.

    This is how the Teamsters reached their goal of having pension reform enacted. Promises made, promises kept.

    Amazon’s Anti-Union Drive Shows Why US Labor Law Is Broken

    2/24/2021 - Article by David Doorey from Jacobinmag.com

    Amazon workers in Alabama are voting on whether to unionize, but the company is able to bombard them with anti-union propaganda. In Canada, by contrast, union votes are held quickly, making it harder for companies to stack the deck — a model that can work in the United States.

    In February 2020, a Canadian labor tribunal ruled that couriers delivering food for delivery service Foodora in Toronto were, in fact, employees, not independent contractors. This decision entitled Foodora workers to unionize and engage in collective bargaining.

    The Foodora campaign in Toronto stands in stark contrast to the story unfolding in Bessemer, Alabama, where some 5,800 Amazon employees began voting last week on whether to be represented by the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union (RWDSU).

    In an attempt to fight off its workers’ attempt to organize, Amazon requested that the election be held in person, despite the threat of COVID-19. The bid proved unsuccessful and election ballots have been mailed to workers. However, the company still has weeks to argue its position while the voting takes place. In January, it secured the services of an anti-union consultant.

    If Ontario’s labor laws were in effect in Alabama, the employees would have voted a week or so after the union filed its petition with the National Labor Review Board on November 20. There would still be ongoing litigation about various matters related to the vote, but the ballots themselves would have been cast months ago, frozen until they are ready to be counted.

    Amazon would have no motivation to campaign against the RWDSU after the employees had already voted, so there would be relative peace in Bessemer right now. Instead, the National Labor Relations Act allows for a pitched battle, permitting Amazon to hold its employees captive in a months-long propaganda campaign to dissuade them from choosing collective bargaining.

    The Canadian Model

    In Ontario, votes are usually conducted within a week of the date a union petitions to represent workers. In the Foodora case, the vote was delayed an extra day to account for the time needed to organize an electronic ballot of nearly 1,200 couriers scattered across the greater Toronto area. Because of COVID-19 health measures, the Labor Board accepted Foodora’s argument that an electronic ballot was appropriate.

    Electronic certification ballots are relatively new to Canada, but the pandemic has demonstrated that they work just fine. In-person voting will remain the norm once the pandemic is past, but the much slower mail-in certification vote option is now all but dead.

    In the Canadian system, the ballots are cast quickly. If any legal disputes relating to the vote remain, the ballots are “sealed” (not counted) until those issues are litigated afterward. This simple rule eliminates any practical impediment to conducting votes within a week or so of the union’s petition.

    In the Foodora case, the ballots were counted months after they were cast and after voter eligibility issues were resolved. In the end, approximately eight hundred workers voted, with almost 90 percent voting in favor of being represented by the Canadian Union of Postal Workers.

    Employers Aren’t Short on Time

    Critics have long identified the delay in holding union elections as a major problem with the US model of freedom of association. Employers argue that an extended campaign period is necessary to ensure that employees have the opportunity to receive both sides of the story. The business lobby describes proposals to hold votes less than a month from the date of a union’s petition as “ambush” elections.

    Recently, the CEO of the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM) argued that shorter time frames deprive workers of the time they need for making “important and informed decisions like whether or not to join a union.” More revealingly perhaps, the NAM chief also said that short campaigns deny employers “adequate time to prepare.” Employers claim that they need months, not days or weeks, to explain to employees why they should reject collective bargaining.

    In Canada, the notion that months would be required for this process seems preposterous. Canadian employers, including many US-based multinationals operating in Canada, have had no difficulty conveying their anti-union messages to employees in the space of one week. Employer-side labor law firms have boilerplate seven-day plans ready to go, outlining steps that employers should take on each day preceding the vote.

    Anti-union messaging is not rocket science. The message from employers is always the same: they prefer to deal with workers individually rather than collectively through a union (“an outside third party”) and claim that employees will be better off without unionization. They remind their workers that you can still vote against unionization if you signed a union card, depict the union as a business that will try to collect union dues, and warn that a union cannot guarantee everything it might promise during the campaign.

    In one form or another, that is the extent of the employers’ lawful message every time. True, an astounding number of US employers go further and make unlawful promises or threats, linking a vote to unionize with adverse job-related consequences. But no one argues — publicly at least — that votes should be delayed so that employers have more opportunity to engage in unlawful conduct.

    Undue Influence

    The Canadian model is by no means ideal for unions, of course. Conservative governments introduced the “quick vote” model that today is used in most Canadian jurisdictions in the 1980s and ’90s. They did so against strong resistance from the labor movement, since quick votes replaced the previously dominant model of “card check” union certification.

    In a card check model, a union can be certified without the need for a vote if a majority of employees sign union membership cards. Studies have found that the move from card check to mandatory quick certification votes in several Canadian provinces led to a significant drop in successful unionization efforts.

    Card check makes it harder for employers to wage lengthy anti-union campaigns, which is why unions in Canada and the United States prefer it to mandatory certification votes. For the same reason, right-wing politicians and the business lobby in Canada are generally quite happy with the quick vote model and in no particular hurry to extend the length of time needed.

    In the 1990s, the United Steelworkers petitioned to represent workers at a Walmart store in Windsor, Ontario — just across the border from Detroit. Walmart executives conducted daily captive audience meetings, engaged in one-on-one conversations with employees, and flooded employees with “vote no” literature for six straight days preceding the certification vote.

    No one dared suggest that the Walmart employees had not received their employer’s message when they cast their ballots on the seventh day. In fact, the Labor Board ruled that Walmart’s anti-union messaging was so overwhelming and oppressive during those six days that it constituted illegal “undue influence,” undermining the Board’s capacity to measure the true wishes of the employees through a ballot. Because of Walmart’s unlawful conduct, the Board certified the union.

    In Alabama, the RWDSU filed its petition to represent Amazon employees in November, but the voting will be conducted between February 8 and March 29. At four months, the time between the filing of the petition and the close of the vote is a shockingly long period, during which the law permits Amazon to subject its employees to an onslaught of negative messaging that will dominate their lives for weeks on end.

    The company has taken full advantage of this opportunity, ordering employees to attend captive audience meetings during their working hours, barraging employees with up to five texts per day, engaging in one-on-one discussions with employees, and even posting anti-union flyers in bathroom stalls.

    With the exception of the captive audience meetings, which are prohibited once the ballots are mailed out, this can all continue until the end of the voting period in late March. US labor law grants Amazon months to bombard its employees with the identical message Walmart managed to convey effectively in just seven days in Canada.

    Amazon’s behavior no longer has anything to do with conveying information. By now, every Amazon employee knows full well the company’s position. They have known for months. There is a line between conveying relevant information and smashing employees over the head with propaganda. Amazon is well past that line, with the full support and encouragement of a failed legal model that is in desperate need of reform.

    Top NLRB Lawyer Rolls Back Broad Slate of Trump-Era Anti-Union Policies

    From Bloomberg Law: The NLRB’s new top lawyer dumped a slew of Trump-era Anti-Union changes to the agency’s enforcement of federal labor law, including several that had intensified its policing of unions.

    Acting General Counsel Peter Sung Ohr rolled back 10 separate directives issued by ex-General Counsel Peter Robb, the hard-charging former management attorney who led the National Labor Relations Board’s legal arm from November 2017 until he was fired the day President Joe Biden was inaugurated.

    The memos were rescinded because they’re “inconsistent” with the National Labor Relations Act’s stated goal of encouraging collective bargaining and protecting workers’ rights, or because they’re obsolete or contrary to board law, Ohr said in a memo withdrawing the orders.

    Striking down that slate of memos represents the most significant move of Ohr’s week-long tenure as acting general counsel. Withdrawing the directives will change how the agency’s investigators and lawyers approach cases, while also ending several of Robb’s campaigns to amend board law through litigation.

    The move also highlights the back-and-forth at the NLRB that typically follows a partisan transfer of power at the White House. One of Robb’s first major actions when he assumed the general counsel position was to withdraw a raft of directives issued by his Obama-era predecessor.

    But Biden accelerated that partisan flip-flop by breaking from precedent and firing Robb, a Trump appointee who had about 10 months to go on his term. His termination will draw legal challenges with the potential to undermine the agency’s work.

    You can read more about this by Clicking Here.

    2020 Profit-Sharing Bonus to Eligible Teamsters at ABF

    For the second year in a row, ABF will pay a profit-sharing bonus to the Teamsters actively working at ABF.

    ABF Freight achieved a 95.3% operating ratio* in 2020. Due to the terms negotiated by the Teamsters Union in the 2018-2023 Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA), ABF must pay a profit-sharing bonus to all qualifying Teamster-represented employees. See Profit Sharing MOU Here. The bonus will be paid to all actively working regular employees who were on the seniority list from January 1, 2020, to December 31, 2020. The profit-sharing bonus is 1% of ABF earned wages from January 1, 2020, to December 31, 2020. The profit-sharing bonus for employees represented by the International Brotherhood of Teamsters is ABF’s largest bargaining group.

    *Operating ratio refers to the ratio of operating expenses to operating revenue and is generally considered a measure of profitability and efficiency in the trucking industry.

    According to terms of the collective bargaining agreement with the IBT, the bonus will be paid by check within 60 days of the 2019 calendar year-end.

    Congratulations to all the very deserving Teamsters at ABF!!! (Click Here to read the 2020 article)

    1/25/2021 - UPS Freight-TFI Purchase

    Please see below the following information that was received today from UPS Freight.

    As you may know, UPS Freight has entered into an agreement by which TForce Freight, Inc. (an affiliate of TFI International Inc.) will acquire all of the issued and outstanding shares in the capital stock of UPS Freight, which will result in a transfer of those operations at the closing of the acquisition.

    Does this impact the Teamsters or the Machinists unions? No. The unions continue to represent the same employees and the labor agreements remain in place.

    What happens with my hourly rate, vacations, pension, etc.? For union-represented UPS Freight employees, all terms and conditions such as pay, healthcare, and retirement will stay the same.

    Will I have to change doctors? No. Healthcare coverage remains as it is today through Teamcare.

    Will we have to negotiate a new contract? No. The current Teamsters and IAM contracts will remain in place through August 1, 2023.

    Will I still have my same Union Steward and Business Agent? Yes. You will still be represented by the same local union and have the same stewards you have today.

    What happens to current and outstanding grievances? This transaction has no impact on pending grievances. These will continue to be processed as outlined in the parties’ labor agreements.

    Teamsters Local 492 will continue to update you through our teamsters492.org. We have created a special webpage dedicated to UPS Freight-TFI Purchase, Click Here to View.

    We want to thank all of  the 492 Teamster Brothers & Sisters that took the time to participate in the voting process. Below are the results of the 2020 492 Officer Election:

    Secretary-Treasurer

    Mike Butler: 512

    Jesus Ramon Vidaca: 206

    President

    Warren “Trey” White III: 542

    Antonio E. Hernandez: 176

    Vice-President

    Richard Martinez: 529

    Albert Lujan, Jr.: 188

    Recording Secretary

    Joseph Carrillo: 563

    Trustee

    Andrew Palmer: 544

    Aaron Powell: 535

    Kenny F. Duran: 530

    Ed Lucero: 207

    The application process for the 2021 year is now open. 

    To access the JRHMSF application process (administered by ISTS), go to: https://aim.applyists.net

    Please use JRHMSF for the "Key"

    Eligibility:  For the sons, daughters and financial dependents of Teamster members (including the BMWED, BLET, GCC and TCRC). Academic scholarships ranging from $1,000 to $10,000 for high school seniors planning to attend a four-year college or university and Training/Vocational program awards of up to $2,000 for use at community colleges and trade schools. For more details, Click Here.

    • Application Open: November 30, 2020
    • DEADLINE: March 1, 2021 at 11:59 PM Pacific Time Zone
    • Notification of Selection Results: June 2021
    • Funds Disbursed: August 2021

    For general questions about the James R. Hoffa Memorial Scholarship Fund, please call 855-670-ISTS (4787) or Email: contactus@applyISTS.com

    College Tuition Discount Network

    As a Teamster member, there is a college tuition discount program that is available to you and members of your family. The ISTS Tuition Discount Network (TDN) is a list of For-Profit and Non-Profit colleges and universities that offer reduced tuition. The amount of the reduction can varies by school and can sometimes be as specific as major. Make sure you identify yourself as a Teamster when applying. Click on the school's logo to view the discount. 

    About James R. Hoffa Memorial Scholarship Fund

    James R. Hoffa became a Teamster member in 1934 and served as General President for 14 years, and, in recognition of his tireless service to the union and its members, was honored as General President Emeritus for life. At the November 1999 General Executive Board meeting, then-General Secretary-Treasurer C. Thomas Keegel presented a resolution to establish the new scholarship fund. This site describes the James R. Hoffa Memorial Scholarship Fund (JRHMSF) and outlines eligibility requirements and application procedures. Please click here.

    The James R. Hoffa Memorial Scholarship Fund is an independent organization established and registered as a tax-exempt entity under Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code. The Fund is established solely to provide scholarships to the child or dependent of a member of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, and contributions to the Fund are deductible as charitable contributions to the extent permitted by law.

    For those of you that have not heard of the “Grow Act” (which is an Act to force pensions into becoming composite plans), please review the article posted on the 492 website which explains the problems with this Act. The article can also be found below in this email. In short, Western Conference’s actuaries found that workers in a previously healthy plan that converted to a composite plan would face massive benefit cuts under historical market conditions.

    There will be a Zoom call that is open to all who participate in the Western Conference Pension Fund to learn more about this issue. We highly encourage you to call your Members of Congress NOW and tell them to oppose GROW in the next COVID relief bill.  If you have already called, thank you, but call again.  Call (202) 224-3121 to be connected with your Representative.  To learn who represents you, use Congress's Find My Representative tool (https://www.house.gov/representatives/find-your-representative).

    New Study Exposes Glaring Weaknesses of the GROW Act - Composite Plan Legislation Jeopardizes Retirement Security

    A new actuarial study commissioned by the largest multiemployer plan in the country, the Western Conference of Teamsters Pension Plan, found that the “GROW Act” would harm workers, retirees, and the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation (PBGC). Download the press release and study below.

    Press Release: New Study Exposes Glaring Weaknesses of the GROW Act

    Actuarial Study: Composite Plan Legislation Jeopardizes Retirement Security

    The GROW Act allows multiemployer plan trustees to “refinance” their obligations to workers and retirees in an existing plan over 25 years instead of 15 years, so they can divert money to start a new composite plan. This weakens the existing plan and leaves neither plan—the existing plan, nor the composite plan—with enough money to pay promised benefits.

    The Western Conference’s actuaries found that workers in a previously healthy plan that converted to a composite plan would face massive benefit cuts under historical market conditions. For example, if Congress had already passed composite legislation and it was law now with investment returns similar to those in early 2020, the future composite plan benefits that workers expected they would earn would be cut 70%, and the composite plan benefits they already earned would be cut 25%. At the same time, workers’ benefits in the existing plan would be cut 21%. To avoid benefit cuts, employers would be required to increase contributions by approximately 82%—above and beyond what they already committed. Under the same scenario, a plan that didn’t transition to the composite structure would weather the market downturn without cutting benefits or increasing contributions.

    In addition, composite legislation risks deepening the current PBGC solvency crisis or creating a new one by artificially reducing the cost of withdrawing from existing plans over time, placing existing plan funding in jeopardy, and exempting composite plans from paying PBGC premiums.

    “Composite legislation and its resulting benefit cuts would violate a fundamental promise between workers and employers by denying workers and retirees the benefits they bargained for and earned,” according to Chuck Mack, the union co-chair of the Plan. “Composite legislation not only undermines healthy plans’ success but destabilizes the entire multiemployer system,” said Ed Lenhart, the employer co-chair.

    Please contact your elected officials ASAP and tell them to vote NO on the GROW Act and have it removed from the HEROES Act!

    The Western Conference of Teamsters Pension Plan is the country’s largest and most successful multiemployer pension plan. For over 60 years, the Plan has provided substantial, secure retirement benefits to over half a million retirees. The Plan has over 600,000 participants and retirees, with participants or retirees in all 50 states and every congressional district. Currently, over 1,400 employers contribute to the Plan. These employers represent more than 50 diverse industries—including grocery and food distribution, package delivery, manufacturing, clerical, beverage bottling, law enforcement, entertainment, waste disposal, and health care. The Plan has $45 billion in assets and has always been well funded.


    Download: WCTPT_Actuarial_Study_July_2020.pdf , WCTPT_PR_New_Study_Exposes_Glaring_Weaknesses_of_the_GROW_Act_7-21-20.pdf

    TEAMSTERS UNION LAUDS CARES ACT RELIEF FOR YRCW WORKERS

    Loan Will Protect Livelihoods of 30,000 Workers Impacted by Pandemic

    A $700 million loan provided by the United States Treasury under the CARES Act will help YRC Worldwide, Inc.'s operating companies pay its employees' health care and other benefits and get through this pandemic while protecting the livelihoods of about 24,000 Teamsters and their families, Teamsters General President James P. Hoffa said today.

    "I want to thank Congress for passing the CARES Act, and the President and the Treasury Secretary for their help in making this essential bridge loan possible," Hoffa said. "They recognized the urgency and acted swiftly to avoid our members' health benefits from being cut and, in the long term, to protect

    24,000 Teamster jobs at YRC Freight, Holland, Reddaway and New Penn."

    The CARES Act assistance will be used to pay for employee health care and pension costs and other obligations. YRCW employs 30,000 freight workers, including 24,000 Teamsters. "I echo General President Hoffa in thanking the government for providing this loan and protecting our members' livelihoods" said Ernie Soehl, Teamsters National Freight Director. "Like so many Teamsters who are essential workers, our members working at the YRCW operating companies have continued to keep our nation's supply chain moving to serve millions of Americans,” Soehl added. “They are true heroes. This assistance gives them some peace of mind moving forward and we hope it gives YRCW the economic stability it needs in the months and years to come."

    TEAMSTERS JOIN IN CELEBRATING JUNETEENTH

    Union Calls on Congress to Create Federal Holiday

    The Teamsters join in honoring the 155th anniversary of the first Juneteenth and call on Congress to create a federal holiday marking the end of slavery. The Teamsters Human Rights & Diversity Commission will be celebrating along with Teamsters from across the country. Juneteenth, a portmanteau of June and nineteenth, is also called Freedom Day, Emancipation Day or Jubilee Day.

    Juneteenth acknowledges June 19, 1865, when Major General Gordon Granger, along with more than 1,800 federal troops arrived in Galveston, Texas, to take control of the state and ensure freedom for the last remaining enslaved African Americans in the area.

    This year, there is a renewed sense of purpose surrounding Juneteenth, given the continuing injustice black Americans face in this country. The murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis on May 26 at the hands of police may have been the catalyst event that has brought hundreds of thousands into the streets to protest against racial discrimination all across this country, but the litany of wounds can be traced back 400 years.

    “For more than a century, the Teamsters have stood for racial equality. But that in itself is not enough,” Teamsters General President Jim Hoffa said. “This union recognizes that we all must do more to ensure that black Americans live their lives without fear of injustice and have an equal voice in our communities. A Juneteenth holiday is a small, but important, step towards recognizing the full independence of every American.”

    Juneteenth initially became an occasion for gathering lost family members and measuring progress against freedom. In many territories, freed Black people would dress in their finest clothes to hear speeches. The earliest celebrations sparked traditions that continue today – from readings of the Emancipation Proclamation and religious services, to cookouts and family sporting events.

    “This country continues to battle with the demons of its original sin, slavery,” said Marcus King, Director of the Teamsters Human Rights and Diversity Commission. “Creating a Juneteenth holiday will not solve the nation’s ills, but it will continue America’s evolution towards truly bringing liberty and justice for all.”

    President Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation on January 1, 1863, which declared “that all persons held as slaves” within the rebellious states “are, and henceforward shall be free.” However, after more than two years, there were still thousands of enslaved black people unaware of their freedom, located in a handful of confederate territories where word spread slowly or was outright resisted. Some slave owners coordinated with Union troops to wait until the end of a harvest to inform enslaved black people they had been freed. Others resisted until federal troops arrived to read Lincoln’s proclamation to the enslaved.

    Although Juneteenth has been informally celebrated primarily by African American communities since that day in 1865, currently 46 of 50 U.S. states and the District of Columbia recognize Juneteenth as an official state holiday or observance. Texas became the first in 1980. New York and Virginia have also announced efforts to recognize Juneteenth as a state holiday there as well. Many corporations such as Twitter and Nike have declared Juneteenth a company holiday in recent weeks in response to protests over the killing of George Floyd and as corporate America faces backlash over racial inequality.

    It is very important to commemorate Juneteenth this year. It has only been 155 years since the end of slavery and African Americans in this country still face discrimination and brutalization through an evolved machine that inflicted those same atrocities over the last 401 years.

    The Human Rights & Diversity Commission is using Juneteenth 2020 as day of reflection, action and service. We implore you to join us in doing the same.

    Please share your story. Take a picture with your Teamster logo and send it to the IBT Instagram or Facebook pages celebrating Juneteenth.

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