January 13, 2016
By Bill Hohlfeld
Elmsford, NY- Monday, January, 11th marked the first union meeting of the year for Teamsters Local 456 in Elmsford. It was opened by International Representative, Bernadette Kelly and after the traditional Pledge of Allegiance and moment of silence for departed brethren was handed over to President-elect Lou Picanti.
He, in turn, introduced his colleagues, Secretary-Treasurer, Joseph Sansone, Vice-president, Dominick Cassanelli Jr., Recording Secretary, Roger Taranto, and Trustees James McGrath, Thomas Medeiros and Robert Richardson. A mix of exhilaration, pride and optimism then hung in the air of the well filled union hall as International Vice- President George Miranda, swore in the new duly elected officers. The attendees watched as the the union officials raised their right hand, then listened intently as those officials repeated their solemn oaths.
Nestled between the expected legalese of “whereas” and “heretofore” certain signature phrases rang through the respectfully silent room. Trade Unionism at its best were embodied in mindfully spoken words like “supporting democratic principles,” “free from corruption” and “serving the members that put me here.” Chests on stage and in the audience visibly swelled upon voicing the intent to “promote harmony and preserve dignity.”
At the conclusion of the ceremony, after the eruption of applause had subsided, Mr. Picanti acknowledged the families of those elected to office, in particular his own. He recalled the numerous occasions the phone rang in the middle of the night, dinner was interrupted, a school play or sporting event went unattended, or a holiday celebration put on hold because of union business. He expressed a heartfelt gratitude to his family for understanding the importance of these intrusions on their lives. This too is at the center of what real unionism is, because while family members are recipients of the rewards of union membership, they are also often called upon to share in the sacrifices. It was appropriate that the photo-op that followed included the loved ones of the elected.
But the evening was not all pomp and circumstance. There was business at hand and an eagerness to get on with it. Minutes of the last meeting of the Executive Board were read, and the overarching theme of the report was transparency. Whether the expenditure was
considerable or minute, the members were made aware of where every penny came from and where every penny went, down to the cost of tee-shirts and baseball caps for newly inducted members.
When the E-Board report was concluded, President Picanti made his general report to the membership. Here, not only the money, but the time spent by union representatives was accounted for. The never ending organizing drives, contract negotiations, arbitration hearings, and political canvassing with mayors, legislators and the governor were reported upon in detail. Events at work sites from Yonkers to Briarcliffe, to the Tappan Zee Bridge were discussed and explained in clear terms to everyone present.
Woven throughout the report were kudos given to the rank and file members, blue collar and white collar alike, in their efforts to assist in attaining the goals the leadership of the local had set. Another recurring theme was one of inclusion. Whether it was the constant reminder of the importance of attendance at union meetings, participation in the many no-cost training opportunities offered by the local on a frequent basis, or the opportunity to take part in charitable work such as the Relay for Life, which is a major fund raising effort on the part of the American Cancer Society, the tone was invitational.
A fitting cap to the evening was the swearing in of new members. Young, fresh faces stood and pledged a loyalty to their new found brother and sisterhood. As they took their seats amidst resounding applause, they placed their feet on the first rung of the ladder that leads to the American Dream, and hopefully, breathed deeply of the air of democracy that engulfed them.