For 30 years there has been a movement of rank-and-file Teamsters to reform our union, called Teamsters for a Democratic Union (TDU). Members of TDU have stood up to corruption and threats, and have worked to win rights for all Teamsters, including majority rule on contracts and the Right to Vote for our International officers.
And for 30 years, old guard officials have responded to this movement for democracy with a well-orchestrated Big Lie campaign to stifle opposing viewpoints in our union. The biggest outright lie—and there are many—is that TDU is employer-funded.
TDU has nothing to hide about our finances. So here we present the facts behind the old guard’s lies and distortions.
Who funds TDU?
TDU itself is funded 100 percent by Teamster members, retirees, and member spouses, mostly through our annual membership dues. Other income is from donations and fundraising drives, including at the TDU Convention and an annual fundraising mailing sent out to all TDU members.
Only money from active Teamsters and their spouses is used for any election-related purpose, such as printing Convoy Dispatch, or helping members design campaign literature.
During International Union elections, campaign money is kept carefully segregated in a separate account, and the expenses are documented and audited by the Election Administrator on a regular basis.
What is TRF?
In 1977 TDU members set up the Teamster Rank and File Education and Legal Defense Foundation (TRF) to carry out the functions the name conveys. Although the two organizations share staff and office space, TDU and TRF funds are kept completely separate.
The IBT Election Administrator and the Election Officers in each of the previous Teamster elections going back to 1991 have carefully investigated both TDU and TRF. Each time the Election Officer has categorically denied the old guard accusations that TDU and TRF are so-called alter egos or employer funded.
TRF is responsible for sponsoring educational events, as well as developing and publishing an informative array of literature for rank and file Teamsters, including handbooks on getting the most from the grievance procedure, basic legal rights of Teamster members, building rank and file power at UPS, how to run for local union office, and more.
Who funds TRF?
Teamster members generously support TRF’s educational mission. Additionally, TRF appeals to other unionists, friends of labor, and pro-labor institutions for support.
Some of this support comes from charitable foundations. These are organizations dedicated to helping grassroots organizations help people win more rights through such projects as voter registration drives and community organizing. These foundations have supported many labor projects, such as the National Interfaith Committee for Worker Justice, United Farm Workers, and more.
TRF is proud to accept support and solidarity from individuals and organizations who understand our movement’s important role in building a strong, progressive labor movement. Far from being outside interference, this support is an expression of solidarity with rank and file Teamsters. Solidarity, for those old guard officials in need of a refresher course, is one of the bedrock principles upon which our labor movement was founded.
But the majority of TRF’s funding comes from Teamster members. Not a penny of support comes from any employer-related source, or from any multiple pension and severance plans, padded expense accounts, graft, employer kickbacks, ghost employees, embezzlement, or any other means that old guard Teamster officials might be all too familiar with!
Why do TDU’s opponents claim that it is employer-funded?
This question gets to the heart of the big lie. According to the smear artists, TDU is employer-funded because TRF receives money from charitable foundations, which in turn own stock from various companies, in the form of mutual funds, bonds, etc.
A quick examination of this logic shows how ridiculous it really is. According to this logic, any Teamster member who owns stock would be employer-funded! Even better, any retiree who receives a Teamster pension would be funded because they receive money from the pension fund, which in turn owns stock in various corporations.
By this logic, even the IBT would be employer-funded! A glance at the Internationals LM-2 financial report shows millions of dollars of holdings in stock, corporate bonds and mutual funds. Neither TDU nor TRF hold any stock.
No employer has ever even offered to help TDU, which is dedicated to a strong, democratic Teamsters Union. Can you imagine why employers would want to fund the movement that historically has led the rejections of concessionary contracts? The movement that won majority rule to get stronger contracts, and the Right to Vote for top officers? The movement that pioneered the rank-and-file mobilization strategies that beat UPS in our 1997 strike? Think about it.
It is illegal for any Teamster employer to directly or indirectly fund TDU. If TDU did receive a penny of such illegal funding, don’t you think all those lawyers on the old guards payroll would haul us into court? And yet they never have. Because TDU is funded by Teamsters like you, without a penny from Teamster employers.
Over that same 30 years, think about how many old guard officials have been expelled from the union or convicted of taking money from Teamster employers, or embezzling members money. The list is disgracefully long. And there we find another reason for the big lie campaign: to distract members attention from the old guards own corrupt practices.
Why do certain Teamster officials spread the ‘big lie’?
Because they are afraid. Not just of TDU, but of you. Afraid that you and other hard-working Teamsters will join together and continue the fight to bring democracy and reform to our great union.
They can’t stand on their record of weak contracts, fat officer-only perks, and coziness with management, so instead they lash out with crude distortions and baseless accusations. They have good reason to be afraid.
The Teamster reform movement is stronger than ever after 30 years. We remain committed to our goal of a strong, democratic Teamsters Union, and we will not rest until we reach our goal.