Shop Steward Douglas Bantu Takes Pride In Role

For Teamsters member Douglas Bantu, being a shop steward in Fort McMurray comes down to one thing – passion.

As a driver for five years at Diversified Transportation Ltd., Douglas said he didn’t originally set out to be a steward, but was asked by several employees to take on the role.

His parents were both teachers, so Douglas said he understood the importance of a union and decided that he should take on the position of a steward.

“You have to have interpersonal skills for sure. You have to be able to communicate and like people,” he explained. “At the end of the day, you are driven by your passion.”

Douglas said that passion he has is to help people.  He pointed out that the role of the steward has changed over the years and isn’t just dealing with grievances – it has become much more.

Being able to do a bit of investigating has become another aspect of the role for Douglas. He described a time when a driver was almost fired because of damage done to one of the busses he was driving.

The driver had parked the bus and the mechanic who picked it up and transferred it told the company that there was damage done to the vehicle.

He said the driver was going to be terminated – the pink slips were ready and already signed. Douglas requested that he be allowed to look into it a bit further.

After ‘eight hours of running around’ he found out that certain policies had not been followed and it was actually not the driver who had caused the damage at all. He presented the evidence and the driver kept his job.

“It takes a lot of hard work sometimes and you have to have the drive to help people. It is a good feeling. I don’t think you can find a better feeling,” said Douglas of helping the employee.

He said that the power of that collective voice is important, and as part of a union, it is easier to be heard.

Douglas said he plans on continuing to help employees have their voices heard as a steward.

“When you are passionate about making a difference, you just keep going.”


NDP Plans To Raise Alberta's Minimum Wage To $15

Fifteen is a number that have been on a lot of Albertan’s minds since the NDP won the provincial election on May 5. New Premier Rachel Notley recently announced that she is going to follow through with her plan to raise the minimum wage to $15 within three years.

Currently Albertan’s minimum wage is $10.20 and is tied with Saskatchewan for the lowest in the country.

“We will be meeting as a cabinet to discuss rolling out that process,” Notley said of the minimum-wage plan on May 20. “Without question that was in our platform and we intend to move forward on it.”

While some are excited about the potential raise in wage, others say it could be damaging to the economy and small businesses.

Amber Ruddy, a senior policy analyst with the Canadian Federation of Independent Business, said in an interview with Metro Calgary that the $15 pledge ‘could do heavy damage to the bottom lines maintained by small business owners.’

“Large jumps in the minimum wage tend to hurt the very people they’re supposed to be helping out,” she said in the article.

She noted that owners would potentially have to cut hours, hire fewer employees, potentially even eliminate existing positions and look towards increased automation.

 Fast Facts About Minimum Wage:

  • The general minimum wage in Alberta is $10.20 per hour, except for employees who serve liquor as part of their employment where the minimum wage is $9.20 per hour.
  • On Sept. 1, 2014 Alberta increased the minimum wage from $9.95 to $10.20 an hour and the liquor server wage was increased from $9.05 to $9.20 an hour.
  • Alberta was the last province to hit the $10 general minimum wage barrier.
  • The highest minimum wage in the country is currently in Nunavit at $11 an hour.
  • Only around 1.5 per cent of Albertans earn the minimum wage, while the national average is at 6.8 percent.

Teamsters LGBT Caucus Looks To Empower Members

Having rights in the workplace is something that should be provided to all people, but for some in the LGBT community, this is not always the case.

Although LGBT rights in the workplace have come a long way, some in the community still face discrimination at work.

The Teamsters LGBT Caucus was formed with a vision of trying to ‘unify, educate and empower LGBT members of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters and the workforce at large.’
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The initial idea for the Caucus came about in 2004 when three members of the Teamsters Human Rights Commission met to talk about the need for a group such as the LGBT Caucus.

They saw a need to recognize and  also advance the ‘understanding, acceptance and respect of LGBT issues within the Teamsters union and workplaces.’

One person who felt passionate about that need is Teamsters member Rhonda Kinard. Based out of California, she is the content and social media coordinator for the Teamsters LGBT caucus.

“One of the big things that we are doing and have done is let people know what their rights are. It is huge – just being empowered by knowing the ways in which you are protected,” said Kinard.

She first heard about the Caucus in 2013 at the Teamsters Women’s Conference during a break-out group in New Orleans.

“I spoke up in the meeting and said ‘why does nobody know that you exist?’” said Kinard.

She suggest taking the conversation to social media and since then she has been building their Facebook following and in late March launched their Twitter and Instagram accounts.

“We are making a forward press at the moment to make sure people know who we are and what we are about,” she said “It was very much word of mouth before, now there is so much more.”

Some of that forward press includes a quarterly newsletter they plan to launch in June to coincide with Pride Month. They also hope to have an inaugural conference sometime in the next year.

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The group wants to get people who are involved in the LGBT Caucus to share their own stories in the newsletter.

“I want to know what is happening in their locals. I want to know what kinds of discrimination they have faced and how the union has helped them. I want this to be union stories,” she explained.

Being inclusive is one of the most important aspects of the Caucus, with Kinard stressing that it isn’t just for ‘LGBT’ but also intersexed, questioning or anyone who falls on the spectrum.

“This is a safe place to tell us about what is going on with you and we will understand, because we are also those people,” she said.

For more information on Teamsters LGBT visit teamsterslgbtcaucus.org.


Mandatory Episode 8: Mental Health In The Workplace Moving Forward

Nearly three years ago tragedy struck G4S when Eddie Rejano, Brian Ilesic, Michelle Shegelski and Matthew Schuman were all shot by a coworker on June 15, 2012. Schuman survived, while Rejano, Ilesic and Shegelski lost their lives.

After the tragedy a process of healing began. Part of that journey has been the 'Make It Mandatory' campaign that aims to make mental health support and education a requirement for all workplaces in Canada.

No one should have to feel stigma or prejudice associated with mental illness in any aspect of their lives, including where they work.

Take Action Now!

The campaign that started last year, has now come to the final episode – but that doesn’t mean the spirit of the initiative ends.

“We need to take what we have achieved so far to date and we need to put it in the hands of those people that have the ear of the law makers in the country and the policy makers,” said Wayne Garner, Vice-President of Teamsters Local 362.

With the video series being watched over 50,000 times, the campaign has reached a huge audience and has had a positive impact on members of the Teamsters community and beyond.

One of these people is Rob Harkness from G4S who was diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) after the tragedy.

“Personally it has let me speak out and speak freely,” said Harkness, adding that he no longer feels alone.

Harkness said he now feels like a member of the Ilesic family, who lost their son Brian on that day.

Take Action Now!

It was the Ilesic’s invited Harkness, Garner and Jordan Madarash to the 2015 Victims of Homicide Western Canadian Conference on April 13 and 14 – a life changing experience for all three.

The conference brought together victims families and representatives from law enforcement, justice services and medical service agencies and organizations.

Garner described it as a safe environment where people were open to talk about what they were feeling and openly speak about mental health – something that is needed in the workplace.

Let’s stand together to make mental health support mandatory in the workplace, by bringing this message to the policy makers. You can take action today to help make it mandatory. #Makeitmandatory


Teamsters Truck Visits Didsbury Show And Shine

The Teamsters 362 truck was out in full force at the annual Didsbury Show and Shine on May 9.

 “It was one of the best car shows I have ever been to,” said Teamsters 362 truck operator Stacey Tulp. “It was the first year we had been to this show and I would go back in a heartbeat.”

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 Tulp said there were 500 cars registered in the show and in the end it was a ’49 Ford that took home the top prize.

 The show was hosted by the Didsbury Car Club and included a BMX demonstration, 100 ft. shoot out , beer gardens and a live band that performed on the Teamsters truck stage.

 Tulp said he is looking forward to taking the Teamsters Truck out to many more show and shines this summer.

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Key Moments Of Historic Election Night In Alberta

History was made last night with an election that saw the first change in power in Alberta since 1971. The NDP took a total of 53 seats, winning the majority in the election that has sent shockwaves around the country.

Reactions came quickly on social media, with some referring to the results as the ‘Orange Crush’ or ‘Miracle on the Prairies’. Others referred the night ‘Hell Freezing Over’ – in light of the drastic political change and sudden snowy weather in Edmonton.

In case you missed the political action, here are some of the key moments of the 2015 Alberta election.

NDP Wins Majority

After four decades in power the Progressive Conservatives lost the political race last night to the Rachel Notley’s NDP.  Notley’s father was Grant Notley who helped found the Alberta NDP and was leader of the party in Alberta from 1968 to 1984, when he was killed in a plane crash.

"Friends, I believe that change has finally come to Alberta," said Notley last night in her speech to supporters. "New people, new ideas and a fresh start for our great province."

There are several speculations as to why the night unfolded the way it did ­ – the televised debate, floor crossing or the ‘look in the mirror’ comment.

Whatever the reason, the voters made their voices heard with NDP gaining 49 seats and the PC’s losing 60.

Wildrose Party Wins Official Opposition

The Wildrose Party also took a lot of the spotlight last night, going from five seats at dissolution to 21.

After the much-publicized floor crossings, many thought that the party didn’t have a fighting chance in the election, but the party gained 16 seats and leader Brian Jean was elected in his riding of Fort McMurray – Conklin.

Voter Turnout

An exciting result was that Alberta had the highest voter turnout in over two decades with 57.01 per cent of eligible voters casting their vote, according to Elections Alberta.

That number is higher than the 54.4 per cent that came out in 2012 and the dismal 40.6 per cent in 2008.

Prentice Resigns 

Jim Prentice resigned from politics all together Tuesday evening immediately after the results were announced, even though he won in his riding of Calgary – Foothills.

“My public contribution to public life is at an end. … I have resigned as the leader of the Progressive Conservative party,” Prentice said to a crowd of supporters.

Surprise Wins And Losses

Alberta Party leader Greg Clark beat out Education Minister Gordon Dirks by more than 1,800 votes. Dirks had previously beaten Clark in the October byelection.

Former mayor of Edmonton Stephen Mandel also lost in his riding of Edmonton - Whitemud. The Alberta Health Minister lost by more than 5,000 votes to Bob Turner of the NDP.

Tie In Calgary - Glenmore Riding

There was a dead heat in the riding of Calgary - Glenmore Tuesday night. NDP candidate Anam Kazim and PC incumbent Linda Johnson, both had 7,015 votes at the end of the night. Elections Alberta will conduct an official recount of all the ballots today.


National Day Of Mourning: Teamsters 362 Member Attends Ceremony Recognizing Importance Of Worker Safety

A workplace should be a place where everyone feels safe, but unfortunately there are still work related injuries and fatalities that happen every year in Alberta and across the country.

Now in its 19th year, the National Day of Mourning took place once again on April 28. Teamsters 362 Business Agent Ryan Adams attended this year’s ceremony in Edmonton at Grant Notley Park.

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At 4 p.m. 150 people gathered in the park to recognize the day, assembling by the 'Broken Families' obelisk that stands 14 feet tall and is dedicated to workers who have lost their lives. It was unveiled on the National Day of Mourning two years ago.

The crowd was filled with union members carrying flags, family members who had lost a love one in the workplace and members of the community who were there to show their support.

The ceremony included members of parliament who spoke about the importance of workplace safety and also people who talked about loved ones they had lost.

For Adams who attended for the first time, it was an experience that brought up a lot of different emotions. He said he felt sad and humbled by the power of the experience, while also feeling proud to be part of the unions who were all there to show support for the important ceremony.

“At the end of the day we all want to come home and be with our family. Nobody wants to hear about or experience a loss or an injury – whether it’s the husband, wife or child who doesn’t come home from trying to make an honest days living,” he said.

The National Day of Mourning is held annually on April 28. It was officially recognized by the federal government in 1991 and has since spread to about 80 countries around the world.

According to the Occupational Health and Safety Data from the Workers Compensation Board in Alberta, 169 people died in 2014 in Alberta in a job site incident or from a work-related illness. From 2010 to 2014 that number is at 761.

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Adams said that the speakers also talked about workplace bullying and mental health in the workplace, something Teamsters 362 has been working hard to bring awareness to with the #MakeItMandatory Campaign.

One of the most important aspects of the day for Adams was bringing workplace safety to the forefront – something we may not think about all of the time.

“It is kind of taken for granted that come 5:30, or whatever your punch out time is, that you will make it home and have dinner with the family. It sadly doesn’t happen that way all of the time,” he said. “Any kind of death or injury in the workplace is something that needs to be recognized and addressed.”