The Stand

Rodgers inspires unionists: ‘Use your voice’

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Local leader of Teamsters National Black Caucus connects racial & social justice; invites all to Black History Month ‘Lunch & Learn’ on Feb. 18 

 

By AMRINE WHITE


(Feb. 16, 2022) — As we continue to celebrate Black History Month here at the Washington State Labor Council, AFL-CIO, we want to take the time to highlight influential individuals who are helping push forward racial equity and empower a new generation of labor leaders in our community.

I had the opportunity to interview Pacific Northwest Teamsters National Black Caucus Chairman and Teamsters Local 117 Representative Frederick C. Rodgers, Jr. to speak about his role as a leader in the labor movement. He began by noting his labor upbringing; both his parents were educators and strong union members. He grew up in Miami and graduated from Southeast Oklahoma State University in 1990 with majors in Sociology and Physical Education.

From there he became a Senior Corporal at the Dallas Police Department and a member of the predominantly Black union, the Texas Police Officers Association. After 10 years with the Dallas Police Department, he moved to Seattle and became the security director of Go2Net and later managed his own security consulting company Rodgers Ventures LLC.

In 2003, Rodgers began working at the Monroe Correctional Complex as a custody officer, Sergeant, classification counselor and by 2011 he became the Correctional Unit Supervisor at the Washington State Reformatory.

In 2016, he was asked by the Teamsters representative to be a part of a Labor Management Communications Conference, a pivotal point in his engagement with the union.

“I remember sitting next to the President, Michelle Woodrow, during the first LMCC and I was just so impressed with how smart she was, how good she was with the negotiations, and how passionate the other members around me were about labor rights,” Rodgers said about one of his first conferences.

By 2018, he had become the Chairman of the Pacific Northwest Chapter of the Teamsters National Black Caucus (TNBC) and a Teamsters Local 117 Representative, positions he still holds today.

Rodgers noted that his early success as the Chairman of the Pacific Northwest TNBC has roots in his former position and experience as President of the National Pan Hellenic Council in Seattle, an organization that promotes the wellbeing of traditionally African American sororities and fraternities.

The Teamsters National Black Caucus was formed in 1971 to create change within the Teamsters International. In 1975, the TNBC had the first official meeting which evolved into an annual education conference held in August.

The Pacific Northwest Chapter includes leaders across our region. Today, as Chairman of the Pacific Northwest chapter of the TNBC, Rodgers focuses on making vital connections with other local organizations and communities through events, fundraising and outreach. He also strives to “give the workers a voice and bring attention to social justice.”

Kids enjoy the TNBC’s Trunk or Treat event Oct. 6, 2021, at the Teamsters Hall in Tukwila.

Over the past two years the TNBC held many COVID-safe community events including quarterly Lunch and Learns, Trunk or Treats, and drive-in movies. Learn more about the TNBC at their Facebook page or at www.GoTNBC.com. You don’t need to be a Teamster or be Black to be an associate member of the Pacific Northwest TNBC or attend events, anyone can join. Get details here.

The next event the TNBC is hosting will be a Lunch and Learn event starting at noon on Friday, Feb. 18 featuring guest speaker Celeste Hodge Growden, President and CEO of the Alaska Black Caucus. Follow this Zoom link to join the event.

Rodgers took the time to highlight what Black History Month means to him.

“Black History Month is about recognition, and it gives us the opportunity to celebrate our Blackness.”

When asked what recommendations he had for aspiring labor leaders and future generations, Rodgers replied, “Learn your history and get involved in your community. Most importantly, use your voice: If it’s wrong, it’s wrong, and if it’s right, it’s right. Don’t be afraid to point out either.”

 


Amrine White is a Race & Labor Intern with the Washington State Labor Council, AFL-CIO. The Building a Movement Labor Internship is a paid internship program that connects undergraduate students at the University of Washington with the local labor movement, through partnerships with community organizations engaged with this work on a variety of levels. The WSLC Race & Labor program is committed to racial and economic justice inside the labor movement and in our communities.

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