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Battle for the Teamsters

by staff |
October 29, 2006
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Chicago, IL - As Fight Back! goes to press Teamsters are getting ready to count the ballots in the showdown between the slates of incumbent International President Hoffa and the reform challenger, Local 206 President Tom Leedham. The Tom Leedham Strong Contracts, Good Pensions slate, with extremely limited resources, took out a message of rank-and-file power to challenge employer greed.

At the October convention of Teamsters for a Democratic Union (TDU) Leedham said that because the Teamsters haul this country’s freight, “We are situated at the chokepoints of the U.S. economy.” Leedham urged that we use this power to turn around the Teamsters. As he stated, “We can change the labor movement. We can make history.”

Hoffa’s famous name gave him an initial advantage, but his record of failure tempered this. Hoffa failed to negotiate sufficient employer contributions for UPS, the major trucking companies and other employers to maintain current Teamster benefits. But then he lied to members, telling them that he had done the job. In the case of UPS he had the nerve to call it the, “best contract ever.”

Hoffa is also responsible for the largest dues increase in Teamster history. He claimed that he was going to use the money to increase Teamster power, but the facts indicate otherwise. A TDU study shows that Hoffa and key allies each pay themselves over a quarter million dollars a year. When Hoffa first took office, 16 Teamster officials paid themselves with multiple salaries. Now, 150 Teamster officials receive multiple salaries.

The race is shaping up to be a battle between old-guard officials and rank-and-file reformers. Hoffa’s threat of International intervention into local unions, along with the carrot of buying off local officials with Teamster dues money, has successfully cowed the vast majority of local union officials. But many rank-and-file workers, led by TDU, are seeing through this.

“We are sick of the corruption; our officials take our money and do nothing. We need to take control of our union before it’s too late, before we become just a company union. That is why I got involved in the Tom Leedham campaign and TDU,” said Chicago Teamster Joe Sexauer.

No matter who wins this election, the battle between rank-and-file reformers and old-guard officials will continue on the local level as corrupt officials try to protect their lifestyle and workers try to build a fighting union. The struggle goes on.

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