Gabriella Killpack is a Utah activist.
FRSO Venezuela delegation
August 30, 2019 Jared Hamil and Gabriella Killpack were the Freedom Road Socialist Organization/FightBack!'s trade union delegation in Caracas, Venezuela for the “1st International Meeting of Workers in Solidarity with the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, its Government and Its People,” starting on August 29.
Delegates from most of the Latin America and Caribbean countries, as well as some other parts of the world are participating. This includes labor delegations and trade union leaders from Chile, Bolivia, Brazil, Mexico, Cuba, Puerto Rico, Nicaragua, Colombia, Honduras, El Salvador, Argentina, Nigeria, Portugal, France, the UK and Spain.
On opening day, the international delegates joined their Venezuelan trade union comrades and traveled to the Plaza Bolivar in the center of Caracas. Delegates, special guests and workers from across Venezuela joined in a "No mas Trump!" rally. Francisco Torrealba, the president of the Venezuelan Workers Confederation, kicked off the rally with a rousing speech.
Attendees signed a declaration against U.S. imperialism and Trump's blockade, demanding respect for international law and the sovereignty of Venezuela. Delegates and people from the street joined in chanting, "No more Trump!" and "Que viva Venezuela! Que Viva Maduro! Respeto por Venezuela!"
The 1st International Meeting of Workers is taking place during Trump's economic blockade. In addition, Venezuelans are hearing constant threats of war and invasion from Trump’s National Security Advisor John Bolton. Concretely, the U.S. failed to overthrow President Maduro on April 30 of this year during a coup d’état worthy of the Keystone Cops. The U.S. coup was over before it even started. The reality is that U.S. sanctions mainly harm the people of Venezuela and solidify political support for the Bolivarian Revolution and President Maduro.
May Day 2018
Shouts of “Stand up! Fight back!” echoed off the buildings of downtown Salt Lake City April 28 2018, as more than 40 people gathered to celebrate working-class victories on May Day.
Groups from across the Salt Lake Valley came to participate in the event hosted by the Freedom Road Socialist Organization/FightBack!, including the Rose Park Brown Berets, Students for a Democratic Society, and Utah Against Police Brutality.
Gabriella Killpack, a Teamster member, explained the history of May Day, also commonly known as International Worker’s Day, and its roots in remembrance of the martyrs at the Haymarket Massacre in 1886. She stressed the importance of remembering the past struggles of the working class, saying “they [the ruling class] don’t want us to know our history.” She reminded everyone of the incredible success of the working class movements: improved wages, the eight-hour workday, union power, safer working conditions and more.
Standing in front of more than 100 Teamsters gathered in a Boston, Massachusetts park, May 29 2018, two Teamster leaders announced plans to run together for the leadership of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters (IBT) in 2021.
Sean O’Brien, president of Teamsters Local 25 out of Boston, announced he will join the Teamsters United movement as candidate for general president. Fred Zuckerman, president of Teamsters Local 89 out of Louisville, Kentucky, will run with O’Brien for general secretary-treasurer.
“We supported Fred Zuckerman in 2016 because he ran on the Teamsters United platform of fighting for better contracts, opposing concessions, reviving the strike weapon, organizing in core industries and protecting our pensions,” said Dustin Ponder, a UPS shop steward in Teamsters Local 512 out of Jacksonville, Florida. “That platform is key to making a stronger union and winning a better life for our members. I hope O’Brien and Zuckerman take up the same platform in 2021.”
Ponder was part of the Teamsters United campaign in the Southern Region, which defeated the Hoffa-Hall ticket handily in 2016. Teamsters United won the south by a vote of 10,789 to 8227 in 2016, electing John Palmer and Kimberley Schultz as the new Southern Region Vice Presidents – a sharp reversal from the previous election, when Hoffa easily won against a divided opposition slate.
“The main fight right now is the battle for better contracts at UPS and UPS Freight,” said Gabriella Killpack, a UPS package car driver in Teamsters Local 222 out of Salt Lake City, Utah who campaigned heavily for Teamsters United in 2016.
Killpack refers to the ongoing contract negotiations between the Teamsters, UPS and UPS Freight, which began earlier this year. The union raised a set of contract proposals brought forward by members to address the problems they face on the job. These included an end to forced overtime for package car drivers, monetary penalties for harassment, protections from automation and driverless vehicles, and higher wages for part-timers, among many others.
Speaking to the news, Killpack said, “This announcement by two important Teamster leaders comes at a time when our members are mad as hell and ready to fight the company, up to and including a strike if necessary. O’Brien and Zuckerman have a real opportunity to help lead the fight for an end to forced overtime; $15 per hour starting wages and $5 per hour bump raises for part-timers, monetary penalties for harassment, and protecting our job standards at UPS. That’s what Teamsters want to see right now from our leaders.”
The news came as a surprise to Teamsters activists across the country, many of whom are working to turn out a strong ‘yes’ vote in the UPS and UPS Freight strike authorization poll currently underway. Members and activists flocked to social media, like the popular ‘Vote NO on the UPS Contract’ Facebook group, and discussed the announcement – and what it means moving forward.
“We want to support leaders who are willing to fight employers and not take concessions from corporate America,” said Jared Hamil, a UPS cover driver out of Teamsters Local 396 in Los Angeles, who is active in the Teamsters United movement. “That’s the problem with Hoffa’s leadership – there’s a rat line between the corruption at the top of the IBT and the sellout contracts that Teamsters get year after year.”
Corey Uhl, a UPS combo worker out of Teamsters Local 804 in New York, agreed, adding, “Teamsters United is a movement built by members who want to make our union fight – not sell us out to employers, like we’ve seen from Hoffa. We welcome leaders committed to the same platform.”
With the next international election more than three years away, Teamsters United has more immediate fights on its plate, like the UPS and UPS Freight contracts.
But continuing to build the Teamsters United coalition for the 2021 election remains crucial.
Recent Teamster history shows the importance of united action from union fighters and activists. In 2011, the opposition movement to Hoffa divided into two separate slates with different platforms. Hoffa easily defeated both and won re-election, allowing him and Secretary-Treasurer Ken Hall to push deep concessions like the UPS contract of 2013.
“The Teamsters United movement succeeded in 2016 because it brought together fighters around a militant platform,” said Bob Kolstad, a shop steward in the Hennepin County Public Defender’s Office out of Teamsters Local 320 in Minneapolis. “As we campaigned across the country for Fred, we saw how the Teamsters United platform resonated with members who are tired of seeing our jobs and our lives get worse. We stood united, even with Teamsters we disagreed with, to make historic change. We’ll need to do that again to beat Hoffa in 2021, and we need that same militant Teamsters United platform to get it done.”
- [http://www.fightbacknews.org/2018/4/30/salt-lake-city-celebrates-may-day-despite-police-harassment FB News Salt Lake City celebrates May Day, despite police harassment By staff | April 30, 2018]
- [http://www.fightbacknews.org/2018/5/30/o-brien-zuckerman-announce-run-leadership-teamsters FB News, O’Brien, Zuckerman announce run for leadership of the Teamsters By Dave Schneider | May 30, 2018]