By Tom Campbell
Kennel aides at the Tacoma Humane Society have gone union
TACOMA, Wash. (PAI)—Federal statistics show the “millennials” are the least-unionized group of workers in the country. Many analysts conclude that’s because millennials don’t know what unions are, what they do, and how they help workers.
That’s not the case among the six kennel aides at the Tacoma, Wash., Humane Society—or Teamsters Local 117, which successfully organized them in late December. Once they learned how the union could help them—and the animals—the recognition vote was 6-0.
And the best part of the story is the six came to the union, not the other way around, and for the right reasons anyone joins unions: To gain better working conditions and a say on the job to make it better for them and their customers, including their animal “customers.”
The six, all of them aged 26 or under, “loved their jobs,” Local 117 Communications Director Paul Zilly said in a telephone interview with Western New York Labor Today. So they sought better pay, via organizing themselves, and then bargaining the union contract, “so they could afford to work there” and lovingly care for the dogs, making sure they got good homes.
Now they’re excited about their future, thus proving another point: It makes no difference if a group of workers is large or small. It just shows more workers nationwide see the need for union representation in their workplaces.
“Yes, we’re excited about (these) young millennials,” said Zilly. “There are six of them and they’re all in their 20s. They saw what” the Teamsters did “for 30 of our members who are already employed there by the Tacoma Humane Society as vet techs and customer service representatives” and the benefits they enjoyed as union members. “They love working at their jobs, but they needed to make more money to continue to afford working there. Pay was a major issue.”
“The young workers had a number of conversations with our representatives and they called us,” Zilly continued. “This group of young workers were facing a real struggle. While pay was a major issue, they were also concerned about job security. They voted unanimously” for union representation “and now we’ll look to start negotiations on their first contract.”
Teamsters Local 117, headquartered in Tukwila, Wash., represents 17,000 people who work at 200 employers across Washington state. They include grocery warehouse workers, truck drivers, law enforcement officers, waste water treatment professionals, office clerical workers, 6,000 state correctional workers, and public sector professionals.
Fear not for their future, either: Local 117 is familiar with workers who care for animals and the unique problems that group faces, and not just at the humane society’s kennel. The local, you see, also represents zookeepers at Seattle’s Woodlawn Park Zoo.
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