How to Become a Teamster and Its Importance

The foundation of this country is built on the backbone of the middle class man and woman. For assurance of a high quality and equitable work environment, unions were formed. For over a century, the largest and most powerful union workforce has been the Teamster's Union. Historically, the Teamsters have be a leader in the creation of higher wages, benefit packages, and better working conditions. However, a union is only as strong as its members. In this case, by becoming a Teamster's union member, you're joining a family of nearly 1.5 million people!

Granted, as a truck driver, your membership will belong within the Freight Division. This particular division oversees the well being of over 80,000 members from nearly 248 local affiliates. The basis of the Freight Division is to guarantee the security of a fair and legitimate contract to each of its members. Additionally, each day this division is in charge of various grievance panels, operations, and negotiations. Finally, if needed, the division will respond to its member's questions regarding safety, benefits, salary, etc. As a truck driver, to join the Teamsters, you'll have to find a local union chapter to align with. Once this has been taken care of, you'll most likely need to fill out an International Brotherhood of Teamsters request form. Once this process is complete, then you will set up a way for your dues to be subtracted.

To become and remain a member of the Teamster's union, a member must pay dues. Union dues are set at 2.5 times the worker's hourly wage per month. So, if you make $20 per hour, your dues would equate to $50 per month. However, if a worker makes less than $11 per hour, the dues rate lowers to 2 times the hourly rate. While it may seem quite expensive to some, your union dues are utilized for many important purposes. The majority of your dues (nearly 80%) remain within your local union's chapter to fund activities at the local level. These activities include, but are not limited to the following:
• Equipment for the workplace
• Research for better negotiation practices
• Training
• Accountants
• Attorneys

By becoming a Teamster's member, one of the greatest benefits your union offers is dealing with contract negotiations (collective bargaining). Overall, this is the essence of the labor movement, and where the union's main purpose resides. As a member of this blue-collar family, your union representatives (usually elected) take part in negotiations on your behalf to reach a collective bargaining agreement. It is within this contract that your terms of employment are agreed upon (i.e. pay scale, benefits, etc.) If the majority of the union members agree with the terms (known as ratification), the contract will then go into effect. It's important to realize that although contracts vary from place to place, most contracts cover many of the following items:
• Wages
• Seniority
• Grievance procedures
• Benefits
• Contract length
• Work hours

Remember, a union is only as strong as its members. So, how can a Teamster actively participate to make their union even more powerful? There are a few key components to being an active and engaged union member:
1. It is imperative to stay informed. Know what's going on not only in your work environment, but nationally, as well. It's also a good idea to visit the website to keep abreast of current issues and events.
2. Attend your local union meetings! Show your support at such gatherings whenever you can.
3. Try to take part in union elections; show that your vote is important to you, that it counts, and that it can indeed make a difference.
4. If the internet is your comfort zone, sign up for Teamster Action Alerts. These will notify you about important current issues, and ways that you can help online.
5. Communicate to friends, family, etc. about how the Teamster's union is an important facet in your life.

In the end, if you work within the public sector, becoming a member of the Teamster's union (or another union affiliate) may be in your best interest. The middle class is being attacked by the wealthy few in big business, at an alarming rate. The only hope for the blue-collar worker is in its numbers. There are more people within the middle class sector, than that of the few wealthy upper class. If you value equitable treatment in the workplace, then join with the 1.4 million members of the Teamster's union family and make your voice be heard!

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