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Hoffa praises UPS, sees ‘encouraging response’ by corporations to the pandemic

Commentary by Emily Butt |
April 14, 2020
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IBT President Hoffa
IBT President Hoffa

Lansing, MI - In the April 13 edition of USA Today, Teamster head James P. Hoffa and three other labor leaders signed an outrageous letter entitled “Coronavirus is a stress test for capitalism, and we see encouraging signs.” The article fawned over the same companies that rank-and-file Teamsters across the country are fighting every day. It was especially outrageous given that Teamsters in many industries still lack appropriate PPE, sanitary working conditions, information and hazard pay.

Peppered throughout the article are silly platitudes about “well-managed companies with established relationships to workers,” “companies are preparing to lead the recovery,” and, “We look forward to sitting down with the nation’s business leaders...to hammer out agreements that will restore profits as we emerge from this crisis.” The article states that UPS is part of a “pattern of respect and recognition.” Everyone who works there knows that’s a lie.

Hoffa and his cohorts talk tough about the state of corporate America, but he quickly dives into heaping praise onto Teamster-organized companies and patting himself on the back. He distinguishes vulture capitalists from companies who “doing the right thing,” but that distinction is meaningless when the bar is so low there are almost no standards at all. He praises UPS for giving two weeks of emergency paid time off to workers (under very narrow conditions), while UPS workers still have no hazard pay and low access to PPE and cleaning supplies. At UPS there is very little transparency from the company when workers have been exposed to the virus. Is this what Hoffa calls a win? What a joke.

Invoking forces beyond the labor movement, the Hoffa article says, “Consumers will take note of which companies stood up to lessen the impact of the crisis,” and, “voters will take note of elected officials who looked the other way.” Hoffa and company make no mention of workers resisting. He makes no mention of walk-offs or media campaigns that have won protections.

While workers continue to fight for and demand safe conditions and hazard pay, Hoffa is gloating over the generosity of the corporations that are resisting these workers’ demands.

Hoffa is an out-of-touch voice for a brand of ‘labor management cooperation’ that never fails to disappoint. The message to rank-and-file members is clear. The Hoffa administration won’t fight the company, they will only collaborate with them at the expense of the workers. At a time of unprecedented inequality, what we need is labor union militancy and a serious fight for all we need and deserve.

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