Tag Archives: International Brotherhood of Teamsters

Despite criticism, local members say unions still needed

| ctumola@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of NYC District Council of Carpenters

For those alive today it’s difficult to imagine the American workforce without unions. They not only represent trades, such as brick layers and electrical workers, and teachers, but there are also unions for actors, postal workers, air traffic controllers and many other professions.

But many question their role in the workplace. They say years ago unions were necessary because there were few laws that protected employees. Others, however, say they are still needed to protect workers’ rights.

One of the most famous unions is the International Brotherhood of Teamsters. Founded in 1903, it is one of the world’s largest unions, with 1.4 million members. As it says on the Teamster website, it represents “everyone from A to Z – from airline pilots to zookeepers.” Some other industries that have members in the union include food processing, rail, freight, and motion picture and theatrical trade.

According to the Teamsters Constitution, the union’s main purpose is to educate and organize workers so they can have a better standard of living and have a voice in the workplace.

John Sagona, 45, of Ozone Park, is a 25-year member of the union. He is also a second generation Teamster. His father was in Local 553 from the early 60s until the mid-80s. Sagona has been a member of the same Local, which represents workers in New York City, Long Island and Westchester County, since he began driving fuel oil delivery trucks for Petro.

Whether or not his father was a former member, he still would have joined the Teamsters, said Sagona.

“The unions can protect you,” he said.

That protection includes making sure members have medical benefits, pensions and paid vacations.

Unions are beneficial for both employees and bosses because benefits and better pay means harder, more dedicated workers, said Sagona.

Health insurance is a major reason that father of two Joseph Reilly, 45, of Bellerose, is a member of the New York City District Council of Carpenters, a regional council of the United Brotherhood of Carpenters. Reily is a 13-year member of Local 45, which covers Queens and some of Nassau County. He is also recording secretary of Local 45’ s executive board. Previously he was in the Teamsters electrical union.

When I didn’t work union I had no benefits,” he said. “I just saw the benefits the union members were getting and [they] didn’t compare to non-union,” he continued.

Those benefits follow him to each job whether it’s doing sheet rocking and framing at a school or installing cabinets, said Reily.

One union criticism that he has heard is that they are anti-American, but unions are part of America’s roots, he said.

The 13 colonies under British rule were like workers before unions, said Reilly, but then they united and fought for their rights.

Remember this name: Greg Floyd

| vschneps@queenscourier.com

From the streets of Queens’ tough neighborhoods to the heights of leading a union with 1.4 million members is an extraordinary journey. This has been the life of Gregory Floyd, president of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters.

Mr. Floyd’s Local 237, with 24,000 public employee members, making it the largest teamster’s local in the nation, came to my attention when old friend Phyllis Shafran told me about working with this amazing man.  I never knew that the union represents over 500 different title jobs from School Safety Agents and police officers at public hospitals to administrative attorneys to airport administrative assistants to auto claims adjustors to plasterers to plumbers to storekeepers to zoning inspectors — it literally goes from A to Z careers covering an enormous breadth of people.  And Mr. Floyd is worried.

After his rise from the youngest hospital police captain at Queens Hospital Center, he was elected vice president of the group’s association. He was elected in 2007 as the union’s president, the fifth in its 55-year history.

His power and influence was recognized when he was appointed as a trustee to the Board of the N.Y.C. public pension fund, the employee retirement system, one of the largest public funds in the United States.  It controls assets of $41 billion. It is a position from which he is advocating that the pension dollars should be used to help get the city through its fiscal crisis.

Although his position requires his attention seven days a week his family still takes his highest priority. The day we met he was off to watch his son play ball. He shared that whenever possible he doesn’t miss a game.  He also doesn’t miss an opportunity to remind everyone of the accomplishments of the union movement.

“I think that people have forgotten the achievements labor has made over the last 100 years,” he said. “For example, the 40-hour work week is now standard for all workers, union or not, as are the eight-hour work day and decent wages and benefits.”

Mr. Floyd is a proud man who realizes he has his work cut out for him.

Although many battles have been won by labor there still seem many more are ahead. He seems the right man in these challenging times.

As a member of the Council for Unity, which promotes safety, unity and achievement in schools and communities, his experience seems appropriate for our times and never needed more.

Greg Floyd is a man and a name to remember!