The History of the “2/3 Rule” on Teamster Contracts

By Ken Paff, TDU National Organizer — As we continue to vigorously demand that the Hoffa administration renegotiate, we need to look to the future. We need a new leadership and a new direction. To make that future, we need to understand the past.

With their clumsy attempt to impose the largest Teamster contract by minority rule, the Hoffa leadership has proven beyond a doubt that their loyalty is to themselves and their employer friends.

As we continue to vigorously demand that the Hoffa administration renegotiate, we need to look to the future. We need a new leadership and a new direction.

To make that future, we need to understand the past.

TDU's Long Fight Against the Two-Thirds Rule

The “2/3 to reject” rule has a decades-long history in the Teamsters Union. TDU was formed in 1976, and immediately launched a campaign to get rid of it.  

In 1987, we won a big victory in partially ridding our union of “minority rule on contracts.”  Prior to 1987, the 2/3-to-reject was absolute: no matter how many Teamsters voted, it took 2/3 to reject a contract which the IBT leaders deemed a “final offer.” And old guard officials used it.

As TDU became active, more contracts got rejected. In 1976, carhaulers rejected their national agreement, and it was imposed by the 2/3 rule. In 1982, UPS workers narrowly rejected a sell-out contract, and it was imposed. In 1987, the Master Freight contract was rejected by 64%, and it was imposed.

TDU sued over irregularities in that vote. Ron Carey sued also. In 1987, the IBT leadership, with the RICO racketeering lawsuit brewing, knew that we were near to winning the right to vote for IBT leaders. Under pressure, they settled up, and changed the 2/3 rule.

We won the partial eradication of minority rule. But, like many victories, it was not a total win. Part of the rotten rule still exists: if less than half members participate in the vote. 

We won other contract rights for all Teamsters. In 1984, in the Bauman v Presser case, TDU won an injunction and forced the UPS contract ballots to be impounded, and a new vote was held. IBT President Jackie Presser tried to conduct a “quickie” contract vote, with no time for members to meet, discuss, and distribute leaflets on the contract. That’s how we now get a reasonable period to consider contracts.

The Return of Minority Rule on Contracts

Since 1987—31 years—no national contract has been imposed by minority rule.

Until now.

Even Hoffa has not used minority rule on contracts. In the last UPS contract vote, in 2013, 18 supplements and riders were rejected. Ten of those were rejected by less than 2/3, with less than half of members participating in the vote. The IBT renegotiated and re-voted each of them.

What changed from 2013 till now? Nothing, except Denis Taylor decided to impose his rotten deal. But the buck doesn’t stop with Taylor, it stops with James Hoffa.

Members demand renegotiation. Several International Vice Presidents are demanding a GEB meeting be convened to fix it.

Keep up the fight on this contract.

Know your history. Know who has fought for Teamster rights. Get involved—be part of making a strong and democratic Teamsters Union.

We have an organization and framework to do it: Teamsters for a Democratic Union (TDU). 

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