Teamster women march in downtown Minneapolis
by Deborah Rosenstein
Some 800 Teamsters, in the Twin Cities for a national Teamsters Women's Conference, filled Peavey Plaza Friday to protest corporate greed and call for action to address the nation's unemployment crisis.
"Our country's been hijacked and we need to get it back," said Kim Keller, deputy director of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters' Organizing Department.
She mentioned three recent economic reports showing the U.S. poverty rate is at its highest since 1994, that one out of every seven people in the country live in poverty and that 1.2 million families will lose their homes in the next year. Women now make 82 cents for every dollar men earn, a smaller gap than in the past, but women's wages aren't really improving - men have fared worse in the current recession.
Keller led the crowd in holding their thumbs down in front of the Target Corporation building to protest the company's campaign donations to Republican gubernatorial candidate Tom Emmer, who is advocating more cuts in public services to pay for lower corporate taxes.
Sue Mauren, Teamsters Women's Conference director and president of Teamsters Joint Council 32 in Minnesota, said, "The very people who caused this crisis are recovering, but we need an economic recovery that includes the working class."
Tom Keegel, Teamsters General Secretary-Treasurer, spoke about the greed on Wall Street and said that CEOs have "turned this economy into their own personal casinos."
Other speakers included Minneapolis City Council President Barb Johnson and state Senator Katie Sieben. They urged union members to get involved in bargaining and organizing - and in electing pro-worker candidates in November.
The rally featured chanting, dancing and singing, including Robin Kohl, a member of Teamsters Local 638 in Minnesota, leading the crowd in a rousing version of Bev Grant's classic, "We Were There."
The conference "Teamster Women: Proud of the Past, Prepared for the Future," ran from Thursday through Saturday and was attended by women from the United States and Canada. Highlights included addresses by Teamster President James Hoffa, political analyst Arianna Huffington, National Labor Relations Board chair Wilma Liebman, Interfaith Worker Justice Executive Director Kim Bobo, U.S. Senator Amy Klobuchar and Franni Franken, wife of U.S. Senator Al Franken.
Dozens of workshops were held, including sessions on organizing for work-life balance, setting up women's committees, building bridges with immigrant workers and communicating through social media. The conference program highlighted the milestone 1934 Minneapolis truckers' strike, and University of Minnesota Labor Education Service staff taught two classes on the strike and its legacy for Teamster members today.
For more information
View video and other highlights of the conference on the Teamster website