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Member Spotlight: Zoey Niebuhr (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 Zoey Niebuhr (they/them), and I’m a member of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters (IBT) Local 391 in Raleigh, where I serve as a Teamsters delegate to the Triangle Labor Council (TLC) of the AFL-CIO. I’m also a founding member of Pride at Work NC. Currently I’m a rank-and-file worker at a UPS warehouse, but our union represents folks from all different sorts of industries, from education to bus drivers and manufacturing. Being in the labor movement means a lot to me, especially because I come from a third-generation Teamster family. It makes me feel closer to my grandfather.

North Carolina does not have as many union members as some states, and part of that is because of the state’s “Right-to-Work” law. But another part is that we really just need to dig in and grow our movement of organized workers. I’m a big believer that the union can change people's lives. If we let companies run things the way they want to, folks are going to continue getting exploited. I’ve worked various non-union jobs and can confidently say that union contracts bring better pay, better benefits, and more respect to the workplace.

Recently, I’ve been helping to organize folks at Amazon RDU1 and Raleigh Food & Beverage. It was a very inspiring lesson in solidarity to see a lot of those folks come out to support us during the 2023 UPS contract campaign, so that’s what drives me now to support their organizing efforts. Solidarity can start in your individual workplace, but then it should extend outward to where all workers are supporting each other. Solidarity is a no-brainer, especially between UPS and Amazon workers, since we’re in the same industry and UPS always complains during bargaining that they have to compete with Amazon. Additionally, I think our fates are intertwined and that if folks unionize at the corporate behemoth that is Amazon, it’ll have a ripple effect across all industries.

My message to non-unionized folks is that nobody is going to come in and fix your workplace for you – it’s up to you and your coworkers to stand up for each other. There are folks out here who will support you and have your back when you do. So if you’re struggling to make ends meet on poverty wages from corporations that don’t respect your hard work, it’s time to get together with your co-workers to demand better.