December 2, 2011: Top Hoffa officials are calling for an end to Teamster elections. Teamsters fought to win the Right to Vote—and we’ll fight to keep it.
In the wake of the Teamster election, top Hoffa officials are calling for stripping members of the Right to Vote for Teamster President and International Union officers.
International Vice President Dan Kane gave a speech recently to Joint Council 16 in New York, saying it’s time to take away members’ Right to Vote and return to choosing presidents at Teamster Conventions.
Kane is not alone. Other Hoffa-Hall lieutenants are also promoting the end of Teamster democracy.
Teamster members fought to win the Right to Vote—and we’ll fight to keep it.
There’s a reason the Hoffa administration is launching this campaign now. Hoffa just won reelection with 59 percent of the vote. They claim the low turnout (slightly under 20 percent) is reason to eliminate elections.
Of course, if we eliminated every election in the U.S. and Canada with low voter turnout, very few elections would ever be held! The turnout percentage in this election is almost identical to that in 2006.
Low voter turnout is not the issue. Uncontested control of the International Union is. That’s what Hoffa’s campaign against the Right to Vote is all about.
Hoffa’s Succession Plans
Hoffa is 70 years old, and planning to hand down the presidency to Ken Hall. (Some others on the GEB have ambitions also, including Sean O’Brien, John Coli, and Rome Aloise.)
Hoffa doesn’t want members interfering with his succession plans. By eliminating Teamster democracy, Hoffa would ensure that his successor would never have to face a membership vote. That’s the safe bet—because Hoffa’s popularity is on the decline.
In the 2011 election, Hoffa’s vote fell by 40,000 votes from 2006. The vote for Sandy Pope and Fred Gegare topped Hoffa in over 100 locals with 300,000 members—including most UPS and freight locals.
If opposition forces come together and TDU expands its reach, Hall could be hard pressed to win an election. It’s not a chance he or Hoffa wants to take.
Hoffa also wants to avoid a presidential challenge by other Teamster officers.
In every election since 1991, a top Teamster officer has launched a bid to be General President.
Hoffa and Hall want to cut off potential challengers at the pass—by returning to the days when presidents were chosen in back room deals, not by democratic membership votes.
A Bad Deal for Members
Votes at the Teamster Convention do not reflect the will of the members. That has been proven in every election in Teamster history.
In 1991 more than 85 percent of Teamster delegates voted against Ron Carey in the nomination vote at the convention. But members overwhelmingly chose Ron Carey as the first democratically elected General President.
Fast forward to the last two elections. Tom Leedham got six percent of the convention vote, and 34 percent of the rank and file vote in 2006.
Sandy Pope and Fred Gegare did the same this year.
Teamster conventions have always been dominated by the General President. That’s why Hoffa wants General Presidents chosen there. It’s a good deal for top-down control but a bad deal for Teamster members.
What about the Low Turnout?
No one is happy with a 20 percent turnout. But it still means a quarter million Teamsters had their say.
At the Teamster Convention, Hoffa whips tell delegates how to vote by flashing Thumbs Up or Thumbs Down on every vote.
That’s no way to choose our International Union officers.
Low turnouts are a problem in our democracy all across North America. The vast majority of U.S. Congressional incumbents win.
In non-presidential election years, turnout is quite low, and even lower in state and city races.
But if anyone tried to take away your right to vote for mayor, governor, or Congress, you would fight back. And that is what Teamsters must do now.
Make Your Voice Heard
Members of the Hoffa-Hall administration are openly promoting the end of Teamster democracy and the Right to Vote.
Ken Hall and others on the GEB need to level with Teamster members. Will they pledge to protect the Right to Vote—or not?
At the candidate debate in September, Hall ducked this question. He hinted it might be time to change the election rules to keep the Right to Vote on paper but eliminate it in practice by making it impossible for opposition candidates to get on the ballot.
It’s up to Teamster members to make our voices heard and demand a straight answer from Hoffa and Ken Hall.
Regardless of who you support—all Teamsters deserve the Right to Vote.
The Cost of Democracy
The Hoffa administration claims democracy is too expensive. Let’s look at the facts.
The total budget, over two years, of the Election Supervisor was $12 million. This detailed budget included supervising all the delegate races, keeping the election fair, the nomination process at the June IBT Convention, mailing out ballots, postage, counting ballots, certifying the results, and more.
In five years, our union took in $3.5 billion in dues. Democracy costs less than one half of one percent of your dues! That’s a small price to pay.
Hoffa could save far more than $12 million by even modestly reducing the multiple salaries he pays to his political supporters. He could cut back on how many politicians and performers the IBT paid to come to the Las Vegas convention.
Wouldn’t cutting some of that waste be a better way to save $12 million than to eliminate the Right to Vote?
The Wrong Message
“The Right to Vote is good for our union. It gives members a tool to be involved and to hold our officers accountable.
“I was an observer at the vote count and I wasn’t happy with the low turnout. But saying we don’t need the Right to Vote sends the wrong message to members. Any officer who thinks we shouldn’t have the right to vote doesn’t deserve to hold office.”
Scott Alcantara-Thompson Coca-Cola, Local 317 Syracuse, N.Y.
We’ll Fight for Our Rights
“I’ve been to the Teamster Convention and seen the games they play on the convention floor. Our union used to choose its officials through back room deals at the convention—until we won Right to Vote.
“We are Teamsters for a DEMOCRATIC Union. We won the Right to Vote. And we’ll fight to keep it. I’m sure the members will back us up.”
David Kremer University of Minnesota Local 320