Joining the Teamsters
Joining the Teamsters allows you to have a voice in how you are treated at work. As a Teamster member, you are part of 1.4 million working men and women and their families fighting to improve working conditions at your workplace and around the nation. The Teamsters are a family, along with 400,000 Teamster retirees in the United States and Canada. You will always have the support and strength of your union sisters and brothers. Your union is a democratic organization, where the members have the right to elect their leaders, and decide the union’s policies.
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Your Rights at Work
The Union ContractBy joining together, Teamsters have more say in working conditions. We can negotiate with management to make jobs better and make sure we are all treated fairly.
Most Teamsters, except for some public employees, are covered by a union contract with the employer. Contracts cover such rights and benefits as…
- Pay levels and pay raises.
- Health coverage.
- Job security.
- Paid time off for vacations and holidays.
- Retirement benefits.
- Rules about how you must be treated on the job.
Your contract is negotiated with management by your co-workers and Teamster leaders. Every member has the right to make suggestions about what should be in the contract and to vote on the final agreement.
To win a good contract, workers have to show management that they are united in support of their negotiating team. Sometimes workers have to get support from other unions, community groups, public officials, consumers, or other organizations to convince management to reach a reasonable agreement.
The rights and benefits in the contract are guaranteed. Management cannot legally change them without negotiations with the union.
Your Right to Fair Treatment
Everyone wants to have smooth working relationship on the job. But problems sometimes come up in every workplace.
A Teamster contract includes a procedure to protect you from being treated unfairly or fired without good reason. It also protects you from discrimination or favoritism in the way work assignments, promotions, layoffs, or other issues are handled.
A complaint that the contract has been violated is called a “grievance.”
If you think management may have violated your rights, or have any questions or problems about work, tell your Teamster steward.
The steward and other local union leaders can answer your questions and help you figure out the best way to solve the problem.
Sometimes that involves discussions with management.
Sometimes it requires getting the support of other workers for a fair solution.
Help From Your Local Union
When you join the Teamsters, you become a member of a local union.
Your local union has the main responsibility for enforcing your rights under the union contract. Most Teamster contracts are negotiated by the local union.
Your local union has seven officers, all elected by the membership.
Some locals employ business agents to represent members and help the officers coordinate union activities.
Your most direct link to the union is your Teamster steward.
Your steward is a co-worker trained to help represent and organize union members. You should go to your steward when you have a question or problem.
How You Can Get Involved
- Read your contract. Ask your steward to explain parts that seem unclear.
- Insist on your rights. Let your steward and other coworkers know if you think management is acting unfairly. If a manager asks you questions that might lead to discipline, you have a legal right to have your union steward present during the questioning.
- Support your coworkers If someone else isn’t being treated fairly, back them up. Our union is strong because we stick together.
- Back up your union leaders when they ask for your support.
- Support campaigns to win better contracts. Give your local union representative your ideas for what to negotiate in your contract. Join in activities to show management that you support your union. Help reach out to community groups if their support is needed.
- Back other workers’ campaigns for fair contracts. When other Teamsters or members of other unions win better contracts, that helps set higher standards that make it easier for your group to negotiate improvements. Other workers may ask you to help them by boycotting a certain product, displaying a bumper sticker, or attending a rally to demonstrate your support.
Helping Other Workers Organize
You have an important role to play in supporting the Teamsters program to organize new groups of workers.
Helping them organize is good for them because they can win new rights and benefits. But it also benefits current members of the union.
A bigger and stronger union can win better contracts and better laws for all of us.
Employers often argue that union members should be brought down to the lower wage and benefit levels of the unorganized.
Our organizing efforts create victories for all workers — union as well as non-union — by raising the standard, ensuring that we can all have better and more secure jobs.
Teamster officers and staff lead our organizing efforts — but they can’t do it alone. Successful organizing drives often depend on Teamster members who give their time to explain the benefits of being a member to unorganized workers.
How You Can Get Involved
- Offer to help with union organizing. Ask your local union about current organizing efforts.
- Talk to unorganized workers, friends, and neighbors about the importance of being a union member.
Help make our union strong and democratic — by being involved in the programs described on this page — so that unorganized workers will want to join us.
Union Democracy Makes Us Strong
The Teamsters Union belongs to the members. The more active the members, the stronger the union.
You and your coworkers have the right to…
- Elect the officers of your local union.
- Attend local union meetings.
- Vote on contracts that your union representatives negotiate.
The International Union
You also have the right to elect the leaders of the International Union, which includes all Teamster local unions in the U.S. and Canada.
The International Union supports locals with…
- Coordination so that we can all work toward common goals in contract negotiations, political action, and organizing workers who don’t have union protection.
- Training and educational programs for local leaders, stewards, and members.
- Advice and assistance from experienced organizers, negotiators, researchers, attorneys, safety and health professionals, auditors, and communications specialists.
In 1991, Teamster members in the US and Canada had their first chance in history to elect the General President of the International Union and the other members of the General Executive Board. Future elections will be held every five years.
Every five years, the members of each local in the US and Canada also elect delegates to the International Convention. The convention sets overall policy about the programs, goals, and finances of the Teamsters Union.
The International Union has a number of Trade Divisions that provide special help for locals with members in particular industries or kinds of work. These include…
- Automobile Transporters Industry
- Building Material and Construction
- Industrial Trades
- Motion Picture and Theatrical
- Newspaper Drivers
- Parcel and Small Package
- Public Employees
- Tank Haul
- Law Enforcement
- Trade Show and Convention Centers
- There are also three trade conferences: Bakery and Laundry Conference, Brewery and Soft Drink Workers Conference, and Dairy Conference.
Local unions in a particular city or region make up a Joint Council. In some cases, Joint Councils have formed state or multi-state conferences.
How Your Dues Are Used
Your dues money pays for the Teamster programs and activities described on this page.
Dues are divided between the Local Union, Joint Council, and International Union, with most of the money used directly by the Local Union.
Each level of the union prepares annual financial reports. As a Teamster member, you have a right to obtain information about how your dues money is being spent.
How You Can Get Involved
Stay informed. Ask your steward and local leaders for information on union activities. Read local union publications and the International Unions magazine.
Participate in union activities. Take an active part in union meetings. Vote in union elections. Become familiar with your Local Union By-laws and the International Union Constitution.
A Changing Union in a Changing World
The Teamsters Union has a proud history, going back to its founding in 1903.
We were originally a Drivers’ union. But as the Teamsters grew stronger, those drivers came into contact with thousands of workers in warehouses, factories, offices, hospitals, local government, and many different kinds of businesses who also needed a union.
Today, the 1.4 million Teamsters hold just about every kind of job found in the US and Canada.
With new approaches and programs, the International Union is working closely with locals to…
- Strengthen our bargaining power.
- Increase our clout in politics.
- Help workers without unions to organize.
- Build unity among all levels of the union.
- Insure union members democratic rights.
- Get family members and retirees involved in union activities.
- Build closer ties with other unions and community organizations.