Tamara Jones has been a proud UFCW member for 14 years, and has been on staff since 2007. She worked in activities at Viewcrest Health Center, in Duluth, Minnesota where she was a union steward and then became a member of the UFCW Local 1116 Executive Board prior to becoming a Union Representative. She is also the Region 6 Coordinator for the UFCW OUTReach , a member of the UFCW Women’s Network, leader of the Northern Division Community Services Committee, board member of the 7th Senate District DFL Board, Fightin’ 15 Precinct Chair, President of the Carlton County Central Labor Body, member of the AFL-CIO/United Way Community Services committee, serves as a member of the Northeast Area Labor Council Executive Board, serves as a member of the Duluth Central Labor Body Executive Board, serves on the United Way Executive Board, is immediate past-President of the International Labour Council, and is a master Trustee with the International Foundation of Employee Benefit Plans.
This is her story:
One of my favorite mothers, Mother Jones (sadly, no relation) said that we should mourn for the dead and fight like hell for the living.
Growing up, I remember learning about the labor movement in my history classes. I learned about the railroad strikes, the Chicago Teamsters’ strike, the Pullman strike – and what I remember the most is that people died to make what we take for granted now possible.
It’s a sobering thought, but even today, all over the world, the labor struggle is real. It is violent. And people die. It’s why you should call your Senators and your Representatives and tell them to oppose fast-tracking the Trans-Pacific Partnership. The countries involved, namely Brunei and Malaysia, have horrific records of human rights abuses, and if we condone entering into trade with these countries, we are no better than they are.
It’s a grim reality.
However, there are glimmers of hope. Our union, UFCW, has been a strong advocate for workers around the globe. Through our partnership and support of UNI Global Union, they have successfully negotiated Colombia’s first ever collective agreement in the retail sector at Carrefour Colombia. It has a woman as president and it is thousands strong. UNI Global Union has over 52 agreements signed with multinational corporations across the globe, aimed at improving working conditions, better wages, and ensuring that corporations act responsibly with regards to their workers.
Here at home, UFCW has been blazing trails with its newly-formed constituency group, UFCW OUTReach. UFCW OUTReach is dedicated to building mutual support between our union’s International, regions, and locals and the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) community and their allies in order to come together to organize for social and economic justice for all, regardless of age, race, gender, creed, color, sexual orientation, or gender identity.
I’m proud to sit on the UFCW OUTReach executive board. Since our formation, we have worked to advocate inclusion of transgender health care benefits in our insurance plans. We have worked to educate our locals about the specific issues transgender individuals face when encountering immigration, and have advocated for immigration reform, especially ensuring that our LGBTQ brothers and sisters aren’t sent back into situations where they may be persecuted to death. We have educated many locals about the issues that are important to us as workers and as LGBTQ people, and encouraged them to educate their members as well as their legislators so we can avoid discriminatory legislation. We have partnered with excellent organizations to make sure that we are at the forefront of LGBTQ workers’ rights and are constantly advocating and empowering our rank-and-file members in their workplace to take a stand against discrimination.
The things listed above are things that I’m so proud of our union being involved in, I could burst.
However, what I’m most proud of in our labor movement has a more personal side. I am a single mom of four kids, two girls, aged 9 and 2 ½, and two boys, aged 7 and 5. My seven year-old has sensory processing disorder and ADHD. It has been a long journey to get him to where he is today.
Through my contractually-provided health insurance, he has access to the therapies and medications he needs to be successful in the world. Through the contractually-obligated medical leave I have, I was able to not worry about being off and meeting my bills when I nearly died when my 2 ½ year-old was born.
Through the support of my brothers and sisters in the union, who have helped me countless times with transporting my children here or there or watching them while I advocate for them at the capitol, or have to take another child to an appointment, or handle a grievance, my children have learned and seen what the union is really about: taking care of each other. Not just in the workplace, but in our daily lives.
They’ve marched on the picket lines, they’ve been to rallies, and they’ve helped with food drives. To them, union isn’t a dirty word or joke. To them, it means family.
I probably overuse this quote from Paul Wellstone, but it really encapsulates everything that is good about the labor movement: “We all do better when we all do better.”
Being part of the labor movement is the only way to ensure that my children will be able to do better, no matter what they choose to do in life. Be it a spy nurse (7 year-old), a construction engineer (5 year-old), a fashion designer-teacher (9 year-old), or the world’s most stubborn person (2 ½ year old), the union has paved their way and will continue to pave their way.