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Member Spotlight: Rick Armstrong (IBT)

Jeremy Sprinkle
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Member Spotlight is a recurring blog post series intended to highlight and connect the dots between the programs and priorities of the NC State AFL-CIO and the leaders and activist members of our affiliates who make it all possible.

My name is Rick Armstrong, and I serve as Vice President of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters (IBT) Local 391. Our local represents about 8,000 workers across North Carolina, including police officers, school bus drivers, package delivery workers, and others.

I’ve been with the Teamsters for 12 years now, but the work really began when I moved here from Long Island. New York is a big pro-union state, so coming to the South was a tough adjustment from that perspective. I was working as a police officer with Raleigh PD, and the pay and benefits were terrible. So I worked to get officers organized, and we were eventually able to join the Teamsters. Unfortunately, NC General Statute 95-98 has made it illegal for state and local employees (like police officers) to have a collective bargaining agreement since 1959—so while we can organize and join unions, we’re banned from negotiating a contract. Getting a CBA for police officers has been a priority of mine since leaving the force and working with the Teamsters. It hasn’t happened yet, but union work takes PATIENCE and PERSEVERANCE, and I know we can win.

The wins do come, and when they do, it’s rewarding to see all our work finally pay off. Last August, the Teamsters won a historic contract for UPS workers. I was part of the team of negotiators, and we recognized that UPS had profited so much during the pandemic, yet their workers were not seeing those profits. We fought for and won significant wage increases, better benefits, and stronger safety and health protections.

On a smaller scale, I also recently assisted with winning a substantial contract for 20-30 truck drivers working for a Garner-based distribution center. This win might not be considered as historic or big as the UPS contract, but it’s making a hell of a difference for those drivers, and that is significant to me.

What I want people to understand is that we are fighting for ALL workers to be treated better by their employers. Those employers make millions of dollars while their employees fight to make ends meet. It’s past time for workers to get their fair share! If we don’t continue to persevere and fight, we allow corporations and companies to exploit us as workers. We must organize and we must fight or we cannot win.