The Teamster magazine and IBT website feature a ten-page puff piece on “20 years of Hoffa.” But no one believes the hype. What does a real Hoffa report card look like?
Overall: A Failing Grade
Hoffa came into office promising that, “The Hoffa name means power.” Instead, the last two decades have produced:
The disintegration of the Central States Pension Fund and the National Master Freight Agreement that were the cornerstone of his father’s legacy.
Historic concessions and contract rejections at UPS, carhaul and other national agreements.
Corruption scandals and contracts imposed after members Voted No.
As a result, members and local officers have lost confidence in the IBT leadership—and created the dysfunctional situation where the majority of members whose contracts are negotiated by the International Union are opposed to their International Union leadership.
Hoffa cannot pass a national contract without using threats or overruling membership votes. The employers know it, and so do the members. This can’t continue.
We cannot build Teamster power with Hoffa or his followers. After twenty years, it’s time for new leadership and a new direction.
Over 120,000 Teamsters worked under the National Master Freight Agreement when Hoffa took office; 20 years later, that number has shrunk to less than 50,000. Teamsters at the YRCW companies suffered a 15% wage cut and slashed pensions in 2009. The only strikes called by Hoffa, at Overnite and Red Star, ended in defeat for our union.
UPS Freight was organized with card-check in 2008, but in a subpar deal. After a decade of concessions, this year’s YRCW contract put the brakes on the downhill slide and showed some improvement.
There are plenty of problems in the freight industry. YRC management couldn't run a merry go-round. The company is saddled with millions in debt and Wall Street creditors are squeezing the company dry. Even strong union leadership would struggle with these challenges. But the Hoffa administration hasn’t even put up a fight. No organizing and no strategy has meant freight Teamsters have had no chance.
Hoffa came into office following the most successful strike and contract of the decade, the 1997 UPS contract battle. He outsourced leadership to Ken Hall, and then to Denis Taylor. Both dropped the ball. Harassment and excessive overtime, a broken grievance procedure, healthcare cuts, the end of 22.3 job creation, two-tier 22.4 drivers, part-time poverty wages. The list goes on and on. All at our union’s most profitable employer.
Full-time top scale wages have kept pace with inflation, good retirement and healthcare benefits for most UPS Teamsters.
The future will bring rapid changes in automation and growing nonunion competition. The union needs to catch up with the times on these issues. Amazon is a threat that cannot be ignored.
Hoffa has offered no strategic plan to organize in Teamster core industries: trucking, distribution, warehousing, construction. Some efforts have been made, often by local unions, but they are hit-and-miss, not sustained or strategic.
There has been organizing success in school bus, and efforts in waste hauling, and a campaign at the ports. While some cronies have been hired as organizers, others are qualified professionals and Teamsters.
Our future depends on organizing, and we are in a good position. Most Teamster work cannot be exported, and many fields are expanding and hiring. New leadership and new strategies won’t be a cure-all, but they can move our union in a better direction.
Hoffa originally styled himself a corruption fighter and appointed anti-corruption czar Ed Stier. But when Stier’s inquiries into corruption and organized crime influence got too close to Hoffa’s top ally in Chicago, John Coli, Hoffa shut down the investigation and Stier resigned in disgust, saying “the problem is Hoffa.” Now, 15 years later, Coli is about to plead guilty to taking over $300,000 in employer payoffs. Two of Hoffa’s Executive Assistants Carlo Scalf, and later Willie Smith, got the boot for corruption. Hoffa’s top ally in the west, Rome Aloise, is suspended from the union for taking employer payoffs and negotiating sham contracts. The list goes on and on. Hoffa cannot act against the power brokers who deliver the votes that have kept him in office—and that’s why he can’t kick the corruption habit.
Hoffa himself has never been personally charged with corruption or payoffs. TDU and reform leaders have protected our right to vote. The federal court is winding down its oversight of our union.
Our union is cleaner than it was, but no thanks to Hoffa who has covered up corruption and tried to prevent contested union elections. TDU and rankand-file reformers have promoted accountability and protected Teamster democracy—and we will continue to do so.
PROTECTING PENSIONS: D
Since Hoffa came in, most of our pension funds have suffered. Hundreds of thousands of Teamsters face pension cuts. UPS was allowed to pull out and cripple Central States, and some other companies followed suit. The failure to organize in core industries led to drastic pension reductions for YRC, hurting various funds.
After initially backing pension cuts, the Hoffa administration changed course and has supported the pension movement of retirees and members. That support, however, has been luke-warm, and harmed by squabbling between Hoffa, Ken Hall and the Central States Fund leadership.
Legislation is desperately needed to defend pensions—not just Teamster pensions, but all workers’ pensions. The 2008 financial collapse was caused by Wall Street. The banks were bailed out, but many workers took pension cuts or are threatened with them.
PRETENDERS TO THE THRONE
Hoffa has yet to announce if he will seek another term in the 2021 IBT election. These officials are jockeying for position to run as Hoffa’s replacement.
Sean O’Brien and Fred Zuckerman have joined forces to head the only announced anti-Hoffa slate.
The number two man in the Hoffa-Hall administration has shied away from the spotlight after negotiating contract givebacks at UPS in 2013, including healthcare cuts for more than 100,000 Teamsters. He supported the concessions negotiated by his successor at the Package Division, Denis Taylor, including lower-paid, two-tier 22.4 drivers and the end of new full-time 22.3 job creation.
As Hoffa’s appointed Carhaul Director, Moore negotiated a concessionary contract that was rejected by an astonishing 87 percent of the membership. During UPS negotiations, Moore appeared with Hoffa in Detroit to push a Yes vote on givebacks. UPSers in Detroit voted No by 67%. Teamsters looking for an alternative to givebacks and concessionary bargaining won’t be turning to Moore.
Hoffa’s main power broker in the West is serving a two-year suspension from the Teamsters for negotiating sham contracts, misusing union funds, and soliciting gifts from an employer he was negotiating with. Management gave Aloise a gift of tickets to a Playboy Super Bowl Party after Aloise helped them get a substandard deal. Aloise’s suspension from the union will end in December.