Celebrating Black History: IAM Spotlights Donte’ L. Vickers

The IAM Human Rights Department has taken on its own identity within the IAM, with the sole purpose of advancing equality and justice. 

This February, the IAM Human Rights Department is featuring accomplished IAM members of the Black community in celebration of Black History Month. 

IAM members being honored for Black History Month are among the many trailblazers in our union.

Donte’ L. Vickers
Nominated by: IAM Western Territory

Between my uncle, son and grandfather, Floyd M. Jones, they both taught me how to work on cars, houses and cement work. I started working on cars at the age of 9 with my uncle Son. He taught me how to do oil changes, brakes and tune ups. My Uncle James retired from being a long shoreman back in 1983. 

My grandfather also had a great influence on me. He also worked as a long shoreman, super cargo. His supervisor would call him at 6 p.m. and ask him if he would come to Benicia waterfront and work. When his check came in, he would show me how much he made, which varied from $1,800 to $2,500 a week. I would always say “Grandfather, you only worked four hours in two days, not including driving.” He would say, “Yes, and say all I picked up was a clipboard.”

As a young person, I always stayed in the presence of either mechanics or general contractors that I worked with. As a result, I was well rounded with knowledge of working as a mechanic, iron worker, plumber, carpenter, roofer, electrician and cement mason. 

In 1991, I started working with Lee Latimore (Castle Construction Co.), a general contractor that had $10,000,000 worth of equipment. I did everything from building forums to pouring cement, plumbing, excavating raw ground to building homes. On the side, I would build VW motors as a hobby and also worked on cars.

In 1997, I worked for as an iron worker for Salinas Rebar. It was my first union job. I liked it, but having to punk iron all day got to me, so I ended up working for U-Haul two years later in 1999. 

Working at U-Haul gave me opportunity to understand what working for a non-union job really felt like. I came in as a mechanic and within two years became Forman. In 2005, the company moved me up to shop supervisor. The day I became shop supervisor, I gave everyone a raise between $5 and $13. I had a problem with people being treated like second class citizens. The mechanics were not being treated fair and I had a problem with that. I felt everyone should be treated with dignity and respect. I did the best I possibly could for my employees, so with that said, because it wasn’t a union job, I was demoted three times for nothing, but still kept the same pay.

In 2014 I came to the City and County of San Francisco as a transit operator for SFMTA. A year later, in 2015, I was hired as a mechanic at Central Shops in San Francisco working on fire trucks. I really enjoyed this and always stepped up to the director with any issues the mechanics had that the supervisor wouldn’t address.

In 2021, I was on the negotiation team as an observer for the Automotive Machinist. This is when I felt like I could help make a difference with the process of bargaining. In April 2022, I transferred to SFMTA Woods Division and started working at the machine shop. It was a very great decision. I actually was able to meet new people and look at the process – a lot of different things pertaining to politics in the work force. In November 2022, I put in for Business Representative for Local 1414 and my first day was Jan. 3, 2023.

I work closely with my church and am presently the President of the Men’s Ministry.

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