For three decades Teamsters have seen a steady erosion of living standards. Now, the employers are stepping up their attacks on healthcare, pensions, and wages.
Our union is the only thing that stands in the path of the employer’s wrecking ball. Unfortunately, the Teamsters leadership around Jimmy Hoffa has failed to effectively stand against these attacks.
Under Hoffa our union has seen more concessions and givebacks to the employers. In many cases, healthcare costs have gone up, while pension benefits have been cut.
- At Sikorsky Hoffa failed to stem a two-fold hike in healthcare co-pays.
- At Allied, Hoffa failed to stop wage and benefit cuts brought on by bankruptcy laws allowing companies to shamelessly walk away from contracts.
- At Overnite, Hoffa inherited an ongoing organizing drive. He called a reckless strike at Overnite without making proper preparations and without a real strategy to win. The strike went on until let it drag on for years, and then he abandoned it as soon as the 2001 Teamster elections were over.
- UPS purchased Overnite, and is operating it as a giant scab operation to further drive down union wages. This has greatly strengthened UPS management. Hoffa has been very slow to respond.
For a Fighting Union
This all serves up a sharp warning to rank-and-file Teamsters about the need for a serious change in leadership.
We need policies that fight the boss, backed up by a strategy that mobilizes the power of our 1.4 million members to win. Hoffa often says good things about organizing and has put out some good PR, but his record is a disaster.
The union needs to firmly hold the line on wages, working conditions, healthcare and pensions, not just rhetorically, but in practice. We need to ensure that after contracts are signed, they will be thoroughly enforced. Companies like UPS should not be getting away with rampant contract violations while making record profits up 24% in 2005.
Whether on the shop floor, on the picket line, or in our communities our numbers make us a powerful force that can beat back the employers. But to inspire our members and those interested in joining our union to act, we need to develop a program that clearly indicates the Teamsters will consistently fight for their interests, and won’t disappoint them.
Organize the Unorganized
The huge growth of non-union competitors acts as a major downward pressure on the wages and benefits currently enjoyed by all Teamsters.
Promising to “restore Teamster power,” Hoffa enacted the largest dues increase in the history of our union. But, he failed to translate this into organizing victories.
Increasing our membership by merging with a number of smaller existing unions doesn’t build ‘union power’. In our core industries such as freight we’ve seen a catastrophic decline in membership. To defend out living standards, we need a membership based organizing drive targeted at our key non-union competitors.
Build Membership Power
There is a clear need to rebuild the power of the Teamsters from the bottom up around a clear vision and strategy to win. This starts with recognizing that our power is our ability to mobilize our members into action.
We need to build up the power of our union on the shop floor, and through mobilizing our members to help organize the unorganized at Overnite (now UPS Freight), DHL, and FedEx.
We need to end the corruption of our union officials. No special privileges of union officials they should be on the same average wage of the members.
Build a Working Class Political Movement
Even with all our power, we cannot defeat the bosses alone. We need to develop more links with the wider working class community. No more support for careerist politicians handcuffed to the two parties of Corporate America. Our union needs to be in the forefront of building a new political party for working people a workers party- that will fight for living wages, the repeal of anti-union legislation, and against all the injustices meted out by Corporate America.
We need a program of demands that can offer a working class alternative to the pro-corporate policies of the two big business parties. These should include: Family wage jobs for all, a national minimum wage of $12.50 an hour, a national universal health care system, a public works program to create jobs for all, and an end to corporate domination of our lives for public ownership of the largest 500 corporations and for these industries to be democratically run and managed by the workers themselves.
Oppose Hoffa in 2007
This fall, there will be an election for the leadership of the Teamsters. On one side, there will be Jimmy Hoffa, whose leadership has totally failed to defend members’ living standards.
Hoffa is supported by many of the most rotten and corrupt union officials whose salaries are comparable to the CEO’s of small corporations. Under Hoffa’s stewardship we’ve seen the reemergence of some of the worst traditions of trade unionism.
For example, Ed Stier, the former top corruption investigator of the Teamsters appointed by Hoffa, resigned along with his entire staff in 2004 after it became clear that Hoffa was blocking a serious investigation into corruption involving Chicago Teamsters leaders.
For a Fighting Teamster Leadership
In this election we have a chance to send a powerful message to the membership: “No more Hoffa, and no more of Hoffa’s policies. Build a fighting and democratic union.”
That’s why we are urging Teamsters to vote for Tom Leedham this fall. Leedham has a record of fighting for members, against corruption and for democratic structures in the union.
He calls for membership-led organizing drives against Overnite and others. For these reasons a Leedham win would be a step forward.
However, a Leedham victory is not enough in itself to stop corporate America’s onslaught on our living standards. While Leedham has many good policies, he does not have a clear program and strategy to reverse the attacks of the employers.
A Leedham victory would mark the end of the disastrous Presidency of Hoffa. It offers the chance for Teamster members to take back their union. It provides an opportunity for rank and file members to put forward fighting and militant policies that can start to transform our union.
The Teamster’s history provides the answers to how we can reverse the bosses offensive. In 1934, Farrell Dobbs and the Minneapolis Teamsters transformed our union, by putting forward fighting policies that won major improvements in their livings standards of members. We need to return to these militant traditions of our past to go forward today.