At its core, a Union is working people standing together. Being part of Teamsters Local 399 means we are Union Sisters and Brothers working together to create a stronger, more powerful and united Membership. Our collective power is our greatest strength that allows us to fight for good benefits, fair wages and better working conditions. When we stand and fight together, no matter our differences, we are an unstoppable force.

With the increased production throughout greater Los Angeles and across our state over the past couple of years, we have been able to welcome in many new Members. We are grateful for the employment that has provided a more stable career for our longtime Members, while also creating opportunities to grow our Membership to address the increased demand for skilled workers in all classifications. To help support both our longtime rank-and-file Members, as well as our newest Members, we have worked to create classes highlighting the necessary skills for our Members in their careers, knowledge of your Union Contracts as well as pathways to understand, learn and grow in your own career.

One of the classes that has been developed and hosted 2-3 times a year is our New Member Orientation Class. Though titled “new Member” this class is actually a great resource for all Members no matter how many years one has been working in the Industry. We have had many seasoned Teamsters that have joined us that have either provided invaluable feedback to the new Members in the room or have walked away learning something new. These classes have taught us that when Members come together to share information, network and learn, it only makes our Union stronger.

We caught up with Armando Santana — Local 399 Executive Board Trustee, Shop Steward at Fox, Driver Steering Committee Member and 18 year Teamster — to get his take on how our Membership can continue to support one another and share information that benefits us collectively. Armando plays a key role during our New Member Orientation Class by sharing both on and off the job advice. Whether you’re a Driver, Location Professional, Casting or any other craft, Armando’s advice and feedback can be applied to all classifications when it comes to navigating our unique Industry.

Armando is a great example of a Member that has taken it upon himself to work hard to not only succeed in his career, but also to get involved in his Union to help use his skills and talents to fight for his Union Sisters and Brothers on a leadership level

When asked what made him embark on a path to get involved, he replied, “As a new Member, I was encouraged by my Brother Mike Santana to attend the Quarterly Union Meetings. I went to the meetings to learn, be better informed and because it was something to be part of. Being a Teamster was something bigger than me. There was a camaraderie that I never had before that was attractive to me.”

Armando attributes a lot of the opportunities in his career and his Union involvement to his consistent participation in the Local’s Union Meetings. “I always felt going to the meetings was important. I was intrigued by what the Union Leaders had to say and wanted to learn as much as I could. I was asked to become a Shop Steward from the previous Administration because I was known for showing up and showing face.”

When Armando started as a new Member, and eventually accepted the role as a Shop Steward, he stated there weren’t any formal classes being hosted by the Local at the time like there are today. A lot of the information was shared from Member to Member, looking to experienced Teamsters and trusted colleagues for advice. Even despite the leadership roles he holds now, Armando still emphasizes the importance of his desire to keep learning.

I am still learning all the time how to be of better service to the Members. I am always being humbled by how I can be better with my attitude, or how I can be a harder worker. I get inspired by the new people and their hunger to work hard and also by those getting ready to retire because their hard work has ensured they were able to make a great career for themselves and retire with a Pension, because of our Union.”

In 2017, when we established our first New Member Orientation, we couldn’t think of a better candidate to help share information and advice to those in attendance. Armando not only has his own rich experience and knowledge to share, but he also consulted with his own circle of trusted Members to share ideas as to what information would be great to highlight during the class.

I talked to Drivers I respected just to prepare for this article, as well as for the New Member Orientation Class; Drivers that have been in for 30 years, Drivers that are about to retire, Captains, Coordinators. A lot of information that I’ve shared in the New Member Orientation classes were things that others also brought up as important. I wanted to know what the people I respected had to say.

One of the biggest recurring themes discussed by Armando and other rank-and-file Members was the importance of having an “Attitude of Gratitude” in this Industry. There are many Members that have fought hard for the gains and benefits our Members experience today and it’s important to be grateful.

Armando continued, “At the end of the day – we are a service department. We service each department and we are a vital part of everything. We are the heartbeat. Without us, nothing is moving. It’s important how we carry ourselves. Sometimes, you run into situations where people aren’t having a great day and aren’t helpful or nice, however we still have a job to do and we have to do it well. A big part of our job is our attitude. I truly believe it’s about 90% attitude and the rest comes in time.

In comparing earlier generations of Local 399 Members to now, Armando shares that today, there is much more willingness to help each other out.

“I think a majority of our Members want to help and share information. There are a lot of Members out there that have a lot of experience and knowledge who would also be the first to give you a hand. The earlier generation wouldn’t always help. They sometimes wanted to see how you would handle things. This was often referred to as the ‘Old School way.’ Nowadays it seems like our Membership is much more willing to help educate Members. Ultimately, I feel like this will bring us together and make us even stronger. We are the Hollywood Teamsters. It’s our Members that make us strong. It’s important to keep that strength and hard work consistent for generations to come.”

Another more recent change in the Industry is the increased production coming back to California due to the California TV and Film Tax Incentive. This has created many work opportunities for both longtime Members as well as Members just getting started in their careers. We asked Armando what advice he could give to new Members that haven’t necessarily experienced slower seasons where work is not as prevalent.

As a Group 3, I didn’t work. It was much slower then. Save your money. It can slow down and it will slow down, so you need to make sure you are prepared. This happens and is normal in this Industry. Everybody should know to take the work while you can and save your money. You might not be working for some time and you should prepare for those moments, especially the newer Members.”

Along with saving your money, Armando stressed the importance of taking any and all work opportunities, no matter how big or small the job it may seem.

“I would never turn down a call no matter what. You never know what that one-day call can lead to. I got a one-day call that turned into 6 years of work and ultimately helped get me the role of Shop Steward. Don’t turn down work and don’t say no. Don’t let yourself or your fear, get in your own way. Even if you don’t have the experience or information, don’t get discouraged.

Armando has spent a lot of time engaging with new and longtime Members to understand their ideas, concerns, questions and advice. It’s important for all Members to seek out opportunities to share information and grow in your own involvement in the Union, as well as your skills on the job.

I feel that everybody’s voice matters in Local 399. We might not all agree but we should still share our voice. When people are heard and have the opportunity to be heard, it’s important. It bothers me when people don’t care or think things can’t change. We have to collectively look towards a solution and always work towards trying to create unity. The Administration is in power to put the Members first and so Members need to help and engage. I would love to see more Members with a lot of experience coming forward. There are a lot of people out there with a lot of information that are in a position to change people’s lives. It’s important to be grateful, work hard and pass it on.

Armando’s passion for getting involved in the Union is contagious. He not only has the utmost respect for his Union Brothers and Sisters. But on a daily basis, he truly seeks to push his colleagues to be the very best they can be in their careers and as representatives of Local 399.

“Everything I have shared all comes from the Members. There are a lot of good people in our Union. We have a lot of future leaders in our Union. Remember, first impressions are really important. One day a person you help might be helping you.”

When asked who has inspired Armando to become the person he is today while also continually inspiring him to work hard and always strive to be better, he replied, “I get inspired by everyone; my family and friends in the Industry and new and longtime Members alike. I am also always inspired by my friends about to retire. There is something pretty cool, such a sense of accomplishment when you see someone wearing a 40-year pin. This job has allowed people to go to places all over the world, some that they would never dream of. It’s a wild career but it’s amazing. You get out of it what you put into it. It can be intimidating but can also be entirely rewarding.”

Read just some of the points below discussed by Armando at our New Member Orientation Class where he talks about “On the Job” and “Off the Job Advice”.

On and Off the Job Advice:

  • Know your Contract. It isn’t always easy to understand but it is important to know your rights. If you are confused by something ask a Business Agent or your Shop Steward. Your contract is your most important tool.
  • Learn how to read your call sheet and understand what it means.
  • Dress and act professional. You are representing yourself, your line of work and your Union.
  • Learn from other people’s mistakes.
  • Don’t speed in your vehicle.
  • Safety First.
  • Stay calm and don’t rush.
  • Be honest if you have an accident. One way or another someone will find out.
  • Have a good attitude.
  • Have good radio etiquette. Keep chatting to a minimum.
  • Work with as many people as you can and work to maintain positive relationships with every person you work with. You will run into these people again. A lot of people don’t forget.
  • Be respectful and try your best to do a good job.
  • A big part of our job is our attitude. 90% attitude – the rest comes in time.
  • Be helpful and work to solve problems.
  • Come prepared for the job. For Drivers that could look like carrying a bag with:
    • Gloves, flashlight, small tools, knife, extra phone charger or battery for your phone, black book in your bag, small tools – clips and carabineers, d rings, carrying straps, safety vest, rain gear if you know the weather might be stormy, etc.
  • Keep up with your license and medical card.
  • Stay compliant with Contract Services and your classes.
  • Get to work early especially on a new production in order to complete paperwork.
  • Learn how to do your logs properly and turn them in. If you are having trouble reach out to your Business Agent or attend one of the DOT Classes hosted by the Local.
  • Let CSATF know if you are going out of town on vacation.
  • Watch your phone use on the lot while driving.
  • Make sure you clean your vehicle and take your trash out.
  • Familiarize yourself with the vehicle you are assigned to.
  • Leave the keys with the vehicle if you step away.
  • If you see someone backing up in a Truck, help them out. Give them eyes.
  • When it’s a one-day call, it’s an opportunity so don’t waste it. Drivers are daily hires.
  • Be Respectful.
  • Make yourself visible and help each other out.
  • Break the van drivers when you are done eating. Van drivers are doing rounders all day and they get stuck driving all day. Important to break the van drivers if you are a truck driver. It’s important to help out when work is being done.
  • Basecamp Party – When we return to stage, put your gloves on and help to set up for the next day. This makes a good impression on the Captain. Dig down deep and stick around.
  • Never stop learning: Attend classes, stay teachable, flexible and open-minded.
  • The more information you have, the more valuable you become.
  • Watch your language.
  • Attend the General Membership Meetings.
  • Remember that we are Teamsters – to me I take that very seriously. I am proud to be a Teamster.
    • Get sworn in
    • Learn our By-laws
    • Don’t harm a fellow Teamster
    • Be Proud to be a Teamster

Do you have advice to share?

Regardless of Classification, we would love to hear feedback from YOU. Whether Member-to-Member advice or feedback from our Members to our Administration, please take a moment to complete a short survey. We will publish some of the results in our April Newsreel. We can all learn from one another! When we work together, share information and get involved it only makes our Union stronger.