More than 100 Michigan Teamster Stewards, Business Agents and Officers attended a special Joint Council #43 seminar held at the Teamsters Welfare Fund Building in Detroit on Wednesday, March 8th to discuss Michigan's right-to-work law, more accurately dubbed the "right-to-freeload."
Joint Council #43 President Greg Nowak kicked off the two-hour seminar by thanking Stewards for their commitment to first-class representation. Nowak also underscored the Stewards' role in protecting members' rights and preserving 100 percent union participation at all Teamster-represented employers.
"Now is the time to engage all members and highlight the incredible benefits and effective bargaining leverage that workers receive by being active and involved Teamster members," Nowak said. "Governor Snyder and other anti-worker lawmakers who pushed right-to-work, or what we more accurately call the 'right-to-freeload', hope this law will erode union power to the point where we are no longer an influential voice. Teamsters are determined to make sure this that this does not happen. Our outreach and education campaign among rank-and-file members is meant to underscore how unions help all members, and how monthly union dues are put to good use to protect good jobs, strong wages, solid benefits and a positive future for Michigan families."
Nowak stressed that successfully battling Michigan's "right-to-freeload" will require an unwavering commitment by all members of the Teamster team to do their part to explain the many positive benefits that members receive thanks to the hard work and due diligence of their union.
"This is not just a Steward issue and it is not just a concern of union Officers and Business Agents," he continued. "It is a central issue which impacts our entire union, both today and for decades to come. This is an urgent campaign which requires all Teamsters to step forward, use their individual initiatives, get involved and take pride in helping preserve 100 percent union participation across Michigan."
Nowak said he remains optimistic that every Teamster Steward will be organizing their worksite more aggressively going forward so that there will be no freeloading when it comes to strong contracts and benefits spearheaded by skilled Teamsters.
During the seminar, Stewards also received an update about activities and issues talking place in Lansing from Michigan Teamsters Joint Council #43 Legislative Director Bill Black. Black said passage of right-to-work was only the beginning, noting that the issue has been simmering in Lansing for decades. He added that attacks on working men and women will likely intensify this year as big business and anti-union special interests, along with their political allies in the Michigan House and Senate, continue dictating the legislative agenda. "Make no mistake, they could care less about helping families when it comes to expanding profits and power for the wealthy and their corporate political backers," Black said.
The primary focus of the seminar, however, was a group session which gave participants the chance to collaborate in small groups and discuss and develop tactics for addressing those who opt to freeload. IBT Training and Development Department representative Shawn Ellis facilitated this workshop to help local union officials push back strategically against Michigan's right-to-freeload off the backs of Teamster Stewards.
Nowak said talking about the "right-to-freeload" is important to understanding the law. However, he stressed that implementing an effective program to counter the law's impact is even more critical to preserving Teamster influence and leadership at the workplace.
"Stewards are the public face of the union as they communicate with members and engage them on workplace issues," he said. "This is why it was fantastic to hear Stewards pledge to take the information presented back to the worksites and organize from within. Teamsters are committed to protecting strong bargaining units, because we understand that the vitality of Michigan working families rests with a vibrant and financially-successful labor movement."