A How-To in Solidarity: Teacher Takes Turkeys to Teamsters

SEIU Local 888 member Jonathan Dudley organized a solidarity fundraiser to deliver 65 Thanksgiving turkeys to locked-out Teamsters. Photo: Rand Wilson

What can you do to help your brothers and sisters when they’re on strike or locked out?

You might follow the example of Head Start teacher Jonathan Dudley. When Aubuchon Hardware locked out 60 workers in the town next door, he sprang into action and raised $1,830—enough to buy each worker a Thanksgiving turkey.

Aubuchon, a regional chain with 120 stores throughout New England, locked the warehouse workers and truck drivers out of its Westminster distribution center on November 8. The boss, fourth-generation owner Will Aubuchon, claims they struck.

Following what Teamsters Local 170 believed was a final negotiation session, Aubuchon had tried to slip language into the contract to make it easier to outsource distribution center work to a low-wage subcontractor in West Virginia. The union filed a bad-faith bargaining charge with the National Labor Relations Board.

The fight against outsourcing struck a chord with Dudley, a member of Service Employees (SEIU) Local 888 in Gardner, Massachusetts. “Gardner used to be the furniture production capital of the world, and we’ve lost that industry,” he said.

He brought an extra copy of the local paper, with a story on the lockout, to work to pin up on his union bulletin board. There he found the contact info for Local 170, which represents the drivers who bus kids to Head Start, and got in touch with a business agent.

“I thought, ‘It’s a pretty terrible time to lock people out, with the holidays, and with the winter weather,’” said Dudley. “It seemed really doable to raise money to buy turkeys.”

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Dudley set up an online fundraiser, using a crowdsourcing site to make it easy for people to give by credit card. He got 50 individual donations—half from personal connections, and the other half from people who found out through the Facebook page for the locked-out Teamsters or publicity from Local 888.

He even got a donation from Communications Workers (CWA) Local 1123, 250 miles away in Syracuse, New York, and another from his own SEIU local.

Verizon call center workers in Gardner, members of Electrical Workers (IBEW) Local 2313, donated too. After all, they remembered Dudley and his co-workers, who had brought them bagels and joined their picket lines during their 45-day strike last spring.

“I was really inspired by the Verizon strike,” Dudley said. In particular, he was impressed by the solidarity between the Verizon workers and Filipino call center workers, including a CWA delegation to the Philippines during the strike.

Besides helping workers feed their families on Thanksgiving, Dudley thought that delivering the turkeys might attract media attention and help put pressure on the company. But Aubuchon and Local 170 reached a settlement November 19, and workers began returning to work the following week.

Still, two days before Thanksgiving, Dudley distributed 65 turkeys to the Aubuchon workers. “Several of the folks, when they picked up their turkeys, said, ‘We hope this never happens to you at Head Start,’” he said, “‘but if it does, we’ll be there.’”

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Rand Wilson | 12/13/16

Photos of Local 888 member Jonathan Dudley and Teamsters Local 170 leaders handing out turkeys are posted on Flickr here.  Good articles about this grassroots example of solidarity appeared in two local papers. The Gardner News has a pay wall, but the Sentinal & Enterprise article is free.  Jonathan Dudley used Generosity.com to raise money.  It charges a small credit card processing fee, but otherwise seemed fine.