Durham Bus Employee's Drive to Earn a Living Wage Motivated Union Vote
WASHINGTON, March 28, 2011 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Teamster Gina Beck, a Durham School Services school bus driver from Laguna Beach, Calif., was recognized today at a White House event held in remembrance of the centennial of the Triangle Shirtwaist fire tragedy. The forum recognized working women who have battled incredible odds and now play important roles in the labor movement.
"I want everyone to be treated fairly," Beck said. "I was ill recently and since I couldn't afford to buy the medicine I had to borrow it from a friend. With a union contract, I will have benefits that can protect my health. My father was a Teamster so I know about the value of having a union job."
The White House forum commemorating the anniversary of the fire tragedy was organized by Labor Secretary Hilda Solis and Valerie Jarrett, Senior Advisor to the President and Chair of the White House Council on Women and Girls. The forum highlighted women from 10 labor unions who told about their personal journeys and commitment to the union movement.
The 146 Triangle Shirtwaist factory workers who died in the fire, mostly young women, were working in unsafe and unsanitary conditions for low wages. The building's exit doors were locked and the workers were trapped inside. The resurgence in union membership and higher standards for workplace safety are two positive results of the tragedy.
"Forming a union is the single most effective action women can take to earn better pay and improve their jobs," said Teamsters General President Jim Hoffa. Studies show that women who are union members earn 34 percent more than non-union counterparts.
Beck grew up in poverty after the death of her parents and the loss of their home after an earthquake. When she heard about the possibility of joining the Teamsters Union, she committed to organize her workplace. She and her co-workers are fighting for their first contract.
"I don't earn a living wage as a Durham bus company driver," Beck said. "Since working for Durham, I have lost my apartment, moved into and lost a mobile home and now I live in the back of an office. I am one of the working poor. But now as part of the Teamsters Union, we can work towards a contract so we can be paid a fair wage with health benefits."
Founded in 1903, the Teamsters Union represents 1.4 million hardworking men and women throughout the United States, Canada and Puerto Rico. For more information, visit www.Teamster.org.
SOURCE International Brotherhood of Teamsters