From coast to coast, DHL Teamsters feel the same way: Hoffa did the company’s bidding and didn’t even bother to consult the affected Teamsters. Much anger is focused on the union allowing DHL to leave the freight grievance panels for more pro-company panels, but a second issue also demands an answer: why did the union fail to exercise the option to reopen the contract?
The contract reopener was put in the contract for good reason. It would have given us leverage, right now, on critical issues like organizing all the DHL contractors. And it would have given members the right to vote on changes, including changes in the grievance procedure. Is that why the Hoffa administration allowed the reopener deadline to pass without taking action?
Some officials, including Chuck Mack in California, have tried to convince members that DHL management wanted the contract open. If that were true, why didn’t they reopen it? Either party had the right to reopen. Why would the company want to allow any possibility at all of a work stoppage at this time? The leverage belonged to the union, and the leadership instead collapsed.
Meanwhile, Local 249 continues to struggle to collect the grievance procedure award of over $200,000 for members who lost work due to subcontracting at the Pittsburgh airport. They have the right to strike over the issue, even though the International Union has refused to sanction one. (Joint Council 40 did grant sanction.) Reportedly they are considering legal action as well as a possible work stoppage.
The International Union, in the person of International rep Brad Slawson, tried to undercut the local union and cut a backroom deal with DHL, but DHL lost the issue a second time at the joint area committee and is legally bound to pay the affected Teamsters. Why does the Hoffa administration continue to do the company’s dirty work on this issue?
2. Which Teamster leader was beaten and nearly killed by opponents? In 1908 Shea was nearly killed by opponents in New York City. TDUers Pete Camarata and Steve Kindred were attacked at the 1976 Teamster convention. Tony Provenzano, head of New Jersey Local 560 and a mob associate, was known for having opponents beaten and killed.
3. Which Teamster leader likened himself to a Roman emperor? At the 1986 Teamster Convention in Las Vegas, Jackie Presser was carried into the sumptuous Eastern Conference party by men dressed as Roman gladiators. Hoffa’s assistant Dane Passo was expelled from the IBT for attempting to make a sweetheart deal covering 1000 Teamsters.
4. Which are victories won by TDU? All of the above.
5. During which Teamster strike were 21 people killed and 416 injured? The Chicago strike of 1905, which started as a sympathy strike for workers at department stores and soon spread. The employer association provoked the strike. They prolonged it as a way to retaliate against the Teamsters for using sympathy strikes and for their efforts to turn the Chicago transit system into a public service rather than a private business.
6. Was TDU the only group to put forward the proposal that Teamster presidents be directly elected by the membership? No. In 1905, Michigan Teamster George Innis proposed the referendum vote. It was voted down at convention but Innis continued to campaign against undemocratic practices in the union. TDU put the right to vote on the floors of the 1976, 1981 and 1986 Teamster Conventions. When the Justice Department moved to put the IBT in trusteeship in the late 1980s, TDU intervened and made the case for the right to vote for IBT officers. It finally became reality in 1989.
7. When was the first time that a Black Teamster served on the General Executive Board? 1976. During the 1971 Teamster Convention, Black members and officers raised concerns about the fact that there were no Black IBT representatives or GEB members. In 1976, at the next convention, the Teamster officialdom appointed John Cleveland from Washington D.C. Local 730 to the GEB. Interestingly, they created a new position on the board rather than move aside any of the white GEB members.
8. When did the first woman serve on the IBT GEB? Not until 1991, when Diana Kilmury was elected with the Ron Carey Slate. The most diverse slate to run for IBT office was the 2001 Tom Leedham slate.
9. Which Teamster president brought about the following changes in our union? Ron Carey. He also eliminated regional conferences that were used as giant parties for highly paid officials.
10. What was the group that called itself BLAST? BLAST, the Brotherhood of Loyal Americans and Strong Teamsters, was a goon squad used to attack dissenting Teamsters. One such attack occurred at the 1983 TDU Convention. BLAST was directed by Richard Leebove. When questioned about BLAST violence against TDU, IBT President Jackie Presser took the Fifth Amendment. This became part of the racketeering case.
11. In which years did UPS Teamsters strike for better contracts or against serious problems? All of the above: * New York Local 804 wildcat strike of eleven days (1970). * New York Local 804 three- month strike over full-time jobs (1974). * Central States wildcat strikes (1976). * Northeast strike, in 15 states for 13 weeks (1976). * Philadelphia Local 623 strike over harassment (1978). * Rochester, N. Y. walkout over harassment (1978). * New Jersey Local 177 strike (1979). * National one-day walkout over increase of the package weight limit (1994). * National strike over full-time job creation, pension and other issues (1997).
12. What was the RISE program? RISE was the Teamsters’ internal anti-corruption program. In 2004, its entire staff resigned in protest over the Hoffa administration’s obstruction of their investigations. RISE stood for Respect Integrity Strength and Ethics.
13. Who is the only Teamster President that never made a living as a rank and file member? James P. Hoffa. As an attorney, he represented employers as well as unions. This quiz first appeared as part of a workshop on Teamster history for attendees of the 2003 TDU Convention. If you would like the full version, contact the TDU office at (313) 842-2600.
March 16, 2006: It has been nearly four years since a special IBT Convention was held to raise dues from two hours pay to 2.5 hours pay. In that time, an additional $525 million has been raised as a result of the dues hike. Members are asking, where did that money go? Here we present some factual answers, based on financial reports obtained from the union, including the 2005 General Secretary Treasurer report.
Who got most of the dues hike? The dues hike generates about $140 million extra each year. Because a large bite of it goes to the International Union, the dues income of the IBT almost doubled as a result of the increase—from about $80 million to $140 million per year.
Hoffa says he solved the union’s finances. Has he? Actually, the members solved it by paying an extra $60 million per year in dues to the International in the dues hike. Since July 2002, an extra $225 million has flowed into the International treasury. Hoffa’s own dues would be $302 per month if he paid 2.5 times his hourly rate. But he pays $63 per month, so it hard to see how he solved the union’s finances.
How much of my dues goes to the strike fund? 3.3 percent of your dues goes to the strike fund, so about 97 percent goes elsewhere. How did we get that 3.3 percent ? The IBT Constitution specifies that 22 percent of your dues goes to the International, and 15 percent of that (15 percent of 22 percent is 3.3 percent ) goes to the strike fund. For example, if your dues are $50 per month, then $1.65 of your dues goes to the strike fund.
Doesn’t the rest of the dues hike go into organizing?2.2 percent of your dues goes to the International’s organizing program. (That’s 10 percent of the 22 percent). That’s about $14 million per year. $15.9 million was spent in 2005. Most International unions are putting much more into organizing. On $50 dues, that’s $1.10 to organizing.
If the International Union almost doubled its income from our dues, and just these modest amounts go to organizing and the strike fund, where does the rest go? That’s a good question. A good bit goes to pay 148 multiple salaries to officials, almost all of them very large donors to Hoffa’s campaign. Over $8 million went to “communications” last year, most of it PR for Hoffa. Some went to meetings at resorts. An unknown amount went to make oil portraits of Hoffa and Keegel. While only $1.2 million went to help corporate campaigns against employers, $28.6 million went to administration in 2005.
Hoffa says the “government” costs a lot. How much? The Independent Review Board (IRB) cost $2.9 million in 2005, one of the smaller items in the IBT budget, and less than half of one percent of a Teamster dues dollar.
How much does the “Family Plan,” the lucrative pension plan that covers top officials, cost? $9.9 million in 2005, almost as much as the International’s organizing budget.
Who determines these financial priorities? The IBT Convention in June can set some guidelines and should. The International officers elected this fall will largely determine where the International spends money in the future. Will it be organizing and building Teamster power, or more salaries for friends and comforts for officials?
If you have questions on Teamster finances, contact TDU for answers or documentation fo your own research. Your Teamster dues dollar is a great investment; get involved to make it work effectively to build our union.
March 16, 2006: Have you seen the photo of Overnite’s new tractor trailers? The ones that say UPS Freight on them? Right there, in a snapshot, is the biggest threat facing our union. UPS is officially rebranding Overnite as UPS Freight.
The best-known name in trucking, and the deepest pockets in the business, are now behind our main nonunion rival in the freight industry. UPS Freight also gives management and UPS Logistics a home-grown nonunion operation where they can direct Teamster feeder work. And you can bet that management will use UPS Freight to undercut our leverage in any future strike—unless we organize UPS Freight and bring those drivers and dock workers into our Teamsters Union.
We really have no other choice. The road to rebuilding our union’s power, strengthening our pensions, organizing in our core industries—all these roads lead through UPS Freight/Overnite. Organizing UPS Freight will not only strengthen our bargaining power at UPS and in the freight industry. It will add at least 10,000 new participants to our union’s benefit plans—helping to reverse the trend that employers and Hoffa’s trustees have used to justify benefit cuts. When you realize the stakes, it becomes clear that Hoffa’s disaster at Overnite marks a turning point for our union.
In the 1990s, our union organized thousands of Overnite workers. Hoffa inherited that organizing drive and drove it right over a cliff. He called a reckless strike with no strategy to win, let it drag on for years, and then pulled the plug as soon as the 2001 Teamster election cycle was over.
UPS Freight is the legacy of that failure. We can overcome Hoffa’s failure. But we need a serious organizing plan to do it. We have to start by cutting dues waste and freeing up money for organizing. We have to train a minimum of 1,000 new member organizers.
If you look at our union’s history, our most successful organizing has been done by Teamsters who are proud of their union. We also must organize strategically to boost the bargaining power of our existing membership. Organizing isn’t just about adding members, it’s about supporting our existing contracts. We need to focus on organizing nonunion competitors like UPS Freight, FedEx, DHL, and other companies who are undermining our industry standards.
The Teamster Convention is three months away. Anyone who attended the last one knows what’s coming. In 2001, Hoffa made organizing Overnite a central theme of the Convention. There were speeches, videos, and resolutions—everything but a plan to win.
We can’t have a repeat in 2006. We can’t play politics when it comes to organizing UPS Freight. When Hoffa ran for General President in 2001, his campaign ads featured a picture of him on an Overnite picket line, promising to “never rest” until the Overnite strike was won.
They say a picture is worth 1,000 words. Look again at that photo of Hoffa’s broken Overnite promise. And look again at the UPS Freight photo. Those pictures sum up the Hoffa record. It’s time for a new direction.
1. How soon after the formation of the IBT did reformers challenge an incumbent president?
___Two years ___Twenty-eight years ___Fifty-four years ___Eighty-eight years
2. Which Teamster leader was beaten and nearly killed by opponents?
___ Ron Carey ___ Pete Camarata ___ Cornelius Shea ___ Tony Provenzano
3. Which Teamster leader likened himself to a Roman emperor?
___Tom Keegel ___Jackie Presser ___Mike Ruscigno ___Dane Passo
4. Which are victories won by TDU?
__ Stopped unreasonable rules used to disqualify challengers from running for office. __Wrote and got enacted a new law giving truck safety whistleblowers protection from retaliation.
__Established fair contract votes and right to separate vote on supplements.
__Ended the 2/3 rule used by the IBT to impose contracts even though rejected by a majority of members.
__Established Right to Vote for IBT officers.
5. During which Teamster strike were 21 people killed and 416 injured?
__Steelhaul strike of 1979 __1997 UPS strike __Chicago strike in 1905 __Minneapolis strike in 1934 __1999 strike against Overnite __1990s Detroit Newspaper strike
6. Was TDU the only group in IBT history to put forward the proposal that Teamster presidents be directly elected by the membership? __Yes __No
7. When was the first time that a Black Teamster served on the General Executive Board? __1912 __1946 __1961 __1976
8. When did the first woman serve on the IBT GEB? __1907 __1942 __1966 __1991
9. Which Teamster president brought about the following changes in our union? *Innocent Until Proven Guilty language in contracts. *Expanded protections for local union elections. *Eliminated 100 multiple salaries paid to top officials. *Organizing program with highest number of wins in decades. *Human rights commission.
10. What was the group that called itself BLAST?
___A recreational group of Chicago Teamster officials.
___A fundraising committee for James Hoffa.
___A goon squad that launched violent attacks on TDU.
___ Tom Keegel’s bowling league.
11. In which years did UPS Teamsters strike for better contracts or against serious problems? __1970 __1974 __1976 __1978 __1979 __1994 __1997
12. What was the RISE program?
___ An exercise regime Hoffa implemented for the General Executive Board.
___ Hoffa’s anti-corruption program that is now defunct.
___ An IBT staff wagering pool on which official’s salary will rise the most in one year.
13. Who is the only Teamster president who never made a living as a rank and file member? ___Hoffa Sr. ___Roy Williams ___Cornelius Shea ___Hoffa Jr.
Before TDU won the right for direct elections of delegates, women and minorities hardly ever made it to the floor of the Teamster Convention. The Right to Vote helped that situation. As we look forward to building a movement that includes the voices of all Teamsters, TDU would like to take advantage of Women’s History Month to acknowledge some exceptional women who have fought for their sisters and brothers against the corruption of previous Teamster leaders.
Diana Kilmury, Vancouver Local 213, enraged the old guard in 1981 when she spoke for ridding the union of its bad apples. “I didn’t say you were a bunch of crooks ... [but] if you’re too damn scared to have an Ethical Practices Commission that you yourselves, the General Executive Board will control, then my God, you must be up to something.” Later, Kilmury would go on to become our union’s first female International Vice President in 1991. Those events inspired the film “Mother Trucker: the Diana Kilmury Story.”
Linda Gregg, Denver Local 435, was one of the first women to become a local principal officer. She spoke in favor of increasing strike benefits at the 1986 convention. The majority of delegates, led by then-President Jackie Presser, voted down the proposal on the grounds that it would be too expensive and make the members too eager to strike. The previous night the Teamsters had footed the bill for giant parties with lobster and free-flowing booze.
Ten years later, Laurie Craig from Minnesota Local 1145, spoke against multiple salaries. “Mr. Chairman, why would a union leader want to be paid two, three, or more salaries? It’s against the principles this union is built upon. We are not a corporation where greed is king. We are a union of brothers and sisters. Let’s unite and do what’s right. Put that money, millions of dollars, to work in organizing and bargaining and strike benefits.”
The proposal to eliminate multiple salaries will again be made at the 2006 Teamster Convention.
The questions these women have raised still resonate with the average Teamster. Local 805 President Sandy Pope, a candidate for International Vice President, is the former director of the Coalition of Labor Union Women (CLUW). She is one of the three women on the still-growing Tom Leedham Strong Contracts, Good Pensions Slate.Hoffa’s slate contains 21 men and no women yet.
Pope says she believes the Teamsters can realize the dreams of the women and men who faced down the old guard in decades past, and that the common-sense, members-first approach advocated by women such as Kilmury, Gregg, and others have given our reform movement a strong base for the work to be done in the twenty-first century.
Review: "I Heard You Paint Houses": Frank 'the Irishman' Sheeran and the Inside Story of the Mafia, the Teamsters, and the Final Ride of Jimmy Hoffa.
"I heard you paint houses." Those are the first words Jimmy Hoffa ever spoke to Frank Sheeran, who would become a top Teamster official in the 1960s and '70s as well as a hired killer for Hoffa and the mob. The words refer to the splatter of blood when the deed is done.
Hoffa hired Sheeran in that first telephone conversation as an "organizer," on the recommendation of Russell Bufalino, the Mafia boss of Pennsylvania.
I Heard You Paint Houses is Sheeran's story of his life with Hoffa and in the mob, as told in hundreds of hours of tapes to one of his former attorneys, Charles Brandt. There have been too many books on the mob and on the Hoffa era in the Teamsters, most of them terrible.
This one is worth reading. Sheeran was close to Hoffa, and gives an insider's feel for the intimate relationship of Hoffa and the Teamster leadership to the mob.
An Insider's Story
Hoffa created a local union for Sheeran: Delaware Local 326 was carved out of Philadelphia Local 107, with Sheeran installed as president. He was identified as a mob leader in the 1987 RICO lawsuit against top Teamsters that led to the present-day consent order.
It's an easy book to read, and even fun, if that's an appropriate word for a book about murder and union corruption. Sheeran and Brandt (half the book is taken verbatim from the Sheeran tapes, the rest written by Brandt) don’t romanticize the mob; to "The Irishman", it's just a business and the way he lives. He matter of factly describes killing three people in one day and then he "met up with Jimmy to give him the report."
There is considerable coverage in the book of Hoffa's trials. Hoffa was tried for taking payoffs from carhaul employers, and got a hung jury by bribing several jurors. His co-defendant was Bert Brennan, his business partner in the scams that sent him to prison. Brennan's son Larry currently heads Michigan Joint Council 43.
Then Hoffa was tried and convicted in 1964 for the jury tampering, and also convicted by a Chicago jury of defrauding the Central States Pension Fund to line his own pocket in a Florida land scam. His appeals ran out in 1967 and he entered Lewiston Prison to serve a combined 13 year sentence.
The chapters on the trials show Hoffa as master strategist and as a brazen crook who used threats and bribes routinely. And they show that his famous ego could be his weakness.
Why Hoffa Was Murdered
James P. Hoffa, the current Teamster president, likes to say the mob killed his dad. It's half true. Mobsters killed Hoffa for sure, but Hoffa was a part of their operation.
Sheeran makes very clear who their victims are: they kill their own. Mainly they kill mob insiders who they fear have information that may be used against them.
Hoffa was too eager to get back into office, and they felt he would trade information in exchange for lifting the restrictions put on him to stay out of the union when Nixon pardoned him in December 1971.
Sheeran adds some details to what is already well-known about the corrupt relationship between Hoffa and the Nixon administration. Sheeran himself delivered a suitcase of money to the home of John Mitchell, the Attorney General who later went to prison himself for Watergate crimes.
After Hoffa left prison in 1971, Sheeran claims he was a changed man. More "puffing," as Sheeran calls it, about what he would do to whom, even though his power was gone. That "puffing" scared top mobsters; it made them think he would make a deal with the Justice Department. That's why Russell Bufalino co-ordered the hit on Hoffa.
Sheeran believes the 1972 book by Kennedy aide Walter Sheridan played a role in the Hoffa murder. That book revealed that Hoffa had snitched to the FBI on Teamster President Dave Beck to help send Beck to prison and Hoffa into the Marble Palace. Bufalino and other Hoffa associates feared that once again he would turn FBI informant to get into the Marble Palace.
That's the FBI's view of the crime as well. Sheeran adds one new twist: that he himself, not Salvatore "Sally Bugs" Bruguglio, pulled the trigger on July 30, 1975. The other new tidbit is a Detroit home address where Sheeran says the Teamster president was killed. (The owner of the house now has a website, apparently shopping for his 15 minutes of fame.)
Whose Union Is It?
I spoke with Dan Moldea, author of The Hoffa Wars, the authoritative 1978 book on Hoffa and his era, about Sheeran's book. Moldea thinks Sheeran embellished the story by making himself the trigger man, but that otherwise there's a lot to learn from the book. It adds some details and intimate connection to Hoffa that only an insider can provide.
Teamsters interested in how the Teamsters Union became corrupted should read it. While mob influence in the Teamsters (and in the USA overall) is lower today, the culture created then lives on inside much of the Teamsters.
Hoffa became obsessed with saying of his former flunky and successor, Frank Fitzsimmons "It's not his union, it's my union."
The idea that the Teamsters belongs to any general president or official is a legacy of the mob era that Teamster members continue to struggle against today.