Bernadette Kelly has been a fearless advocate for workers, families, women and immigrants for decades. She learned about unions at a young age from her father, a shop steward and 20-year member of Teamster Local 831.
While a student at Manhattan College, Bernadette conducted her first organizing campaign, helping the school’s security guards gain union representation. That experience, along with her studies, ignited a passion for social justice and set her on a lifetime path of advocacy in pursuit of affordable, accessible education for all. In the ensuing years, her passion has not abated; Bernadette conducts union trainings and serves on her local PTA board.
After graduation, Bernadette signed on as an organizer for Teamsters Local Union 840. In 1996, after successfully organizing warehouses and nursing homes, she was elected Recording Secretary. A few years later, she joined the staff of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters as an organizer, traveling the country to help apple pickers, public sector workers, and airline employees secure the benefits of union membership and the protections of a Teamster contract. She was later promoted to the position of International Representative.
While her union work has involved diverse industries and struggles, she has always focused her efforts on a single objective: building up working families by empowering members and helping them take their union representation to a higher level. Among her proudest accomplishments are winning a new contract for locked-out Sotheby’s art handlers, spearheading a safety campaign at Coca Cola and working with the New York City Carriage drivers to defend their industry and livelihoods.
Bernadette credits her commitment to the union to her family, including her husband Noel, a member of Theatrical Teamsters Local 817. They reside in Douglaston, Queens, where she is an active member of the Jefferson Democratic Club. She and Noel are proud parents to Thomas, Rowan and John.