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Jimmy Hoffa Jr: Is His Time Up?

by staff |
January 11, 2006
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Chicago, IL - Are Jimmy Hoffa’s days numbered as president of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters? Many rank-and-file activists think it is time for a new leader. Chicago Teamster activist Adrian Esquivel said, “Hoffa broke every promise he made, it’s time we elect a real Teamster with the strength and courage to turn this union around.”

Recently the powerful reform caucus Teamsters for a Democratic Union (TDU) endorsed Tom Leedham for International president. Leedham came out of the gate quickly, leading many to believe that he may upset the media-savvy Hoffa. “The press love the ‘son of a dead mobster’ story,” said TDUer Maria Trevino, “But the truth is that he has done nothing but raise our union dues and the salaries of top officials. Leedham will win, because the working Teamsters know that it is time for a change.”

Leedham surprised many when his supporters swept an early election of delegates to the Teamsters convention in the huge Louisville, Tennessee local that includes the United Parcel Service’s air hub. TDU compared it to “winning the New Hampshire primary,” when Louisville’s Local 89 went for Leedham. Local 89 is the fourth largest local in the Teamsters and, as Fight Back! goes to press, the largest to hold a delegate election.

Delegate elections will continue in Teamster local unions across the country until the end of April. These delegates will then attend the Teamster convention this summer, which will nominate international officers, including president. “These elections are crucial,” said past convention delegate Richard Berg. “If you don’t get enough delegates, you don’t get nominated.”

Tom Leedham is preferred by many Teamsters because of his strong background. Unlike Hoffa, he joined the Teamsters as a rank-and-file worker, when he got a job at a grocery warehouse in Portland, Oregon. Leedham led the reform movement in his Local 206, to which he was eventually elected president. He is known for fighting concessions and negotiating industry-leading contracts. Leedham renegotiated retiree health benefits that his old-guard predecessor had given away.

Leedham was eventually elected International vice president on the Ron Carey Slate. Carey appointed Leedham to run the warehouse division where he negotiated agreements that substantially raised the wages and benefits for warehouse workers, especially in the grocery industry. These higher wages became the industry standard.

Leedham’s slate is called the ‘Strong Contract, Good Pensions Slate.’ His track record in his local and as International vice president indicate that his success in these areas is based on his reliance on rank-and-file mobilizations. “It is not surprising that rank-and-file activists are drawn to Tom Leedham,” said Chicago rank-and-file IBT leader Richard Berg. “He is one of us, he knows that a strong union means a strong, educated rank-and-file movement.”

In contrast, Hoffa and his gang cut pension benefits and raised union dues without a membership vote. “The Hoffa name means cronyism and corruption,” said Minnesota Teamster David Skeie. “It’s time for the deal making to end. It’s time for real Teamster leadership.”

The current delegate elections and summer convention will be followed by a mailed ballot vote in the fall. All Teamsters (in the U.S., Canada, Puerto Rico, etc.) will be allowed to vote.

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