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Teamster Leader Speaks Out: 'A Fight On Two Fronts'

by staff |
March 1, 2002
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Chicago, IL - Christine Royster, candidate for International Vice President of the Teamsters, gave the following talk at a Fight Back! Forum in Chicago for Black History Month. Royster is also a key leader in the battle to turn around the 12,000-member Local 743, one of Chicago's largest Teamster locals.

Members of Local 743, like other Teamsters across the country, have struggled to turn the union around. This year, I was honored to be asked to join Tom Leedham as one of the regional vice-presidential candidates on the Rank and File Power Slate. Together with the New Leadership Slate in Local 743, it was a rank and file slate committed to ending the graft of the old-guard, hiring more union representatives, mobilizing the members, and cutting union officials' huge salaries and perks.

As you may know from reading Fight Back!, Jimmy Hoffa, Jr., succeeded in buying his re-election - using money from his backers, the management in companies whose employees he represents, and from those corrupt hacks in locals around the country. And as you probably know, in Local 743, the president, Bob Walston, stole the election from the New Leadership Slate. The 743 New Leadership Slate has filed charges with the Teamsters Joint Council and is preparing to go to the Department of Labor and to the courts. So, it's not over in 743.

For now, we have Jimmy Hoffa back as our international president. But the struggle continues in the International as well.

For myself, I am honored to report that I received 40,663 votes for regional vice president, which was the highest vote of any regional vice presidential candidate on our slate. When we campaigned, I said that too many Black and Latino workers are ignored and treated like second-class union members in the Teamsters. The Tom Leedham Rank and File Power Slate was dedicated to changing all that.

For example, what I saw at the Teamsters convention last spring was obscene! 30 scholarships, $10,000 each, were passed out to children of Teamsters. All of the recipients were white. Now the membership of the union is close to 50% Black and Latino.

Here's the latest news: after lying during his campaign, saying he had no plan to raise dues, Jimmy Hoffa, Jr. has called for an emergency national convention with only one issue: to raise dues. The members are fighting mad about this. We know that we get lousy representation, and we know how our dues are getting used. We have to go back to Las Vegas and confront the sell-outs and the gangsters - we don't want one more dime to go into their pockets, supporting their millionaire lifestyles, while they sell us down the drain.

We also have to get ready to support our brothers and sisters at UPS. The great strike in 1997 was fought with the demands that thousands of part-time workers be made permanent, with all of the benefits and pay that full timers receive. Many of these part-timers are Black. UPS has made only a small number permanent. We should be gearing up for a fight for the jobs that they agreed to in the last contract. We should again "Shut down big brown." But Jimmy Hoffa, Jr. is preparing to sell us out even further.

So we have a fight on two fronts - against our bosses, and against the sell-outs in our unions. If we have the strength that comes from the vision for a real union, a class struggle union, we know that we will win.