In 2001, Hoffa controlled the vast majority of the delegates and they rubber-stamped his proposals. Speakers crowed that Hoffa unity had restored our power and would deliver huge improvements for Teamsters.
Tyson Johnson guaranteed “the best contract in history for our freight members.” Ken Hall bragged that at UPS, “We're going to finish in 2002 what we started in 1997.” Another Hoffa delegate boasted that because of Hoffa unity, “We will not lose our pensions. We will not lose our health and welfare to UPS.”
Hoffa declared, “I promise you that if reelected I will end government control of the Teamsters Union. That I promise you, that will happen.”
Hoffa also said, “I am not a man who makes idle threats, but today I promise you that if I am elected, we will defeat Overnite. That will happen.”
It was all great election-year theater. But once the ballots were counted, the script changed. Hoffa pulled the plug on the Overnite strike and on his anti-corruption program. He raised our dues without a vote. His “Best Contracts Ever” cut the pensions and benefits of hundreds of thousands of Teamsters.
Why Didn't Hoffa Unity Deliver?
Why did Hoffa’s unity fail to deliver the power he promised? More than 90 percent of the delegates backed Hoffa—many because they sincerely believed that uniting behind Hoffa would strengthen the union. So what happened?
What we all learned from 2001 was that it takes more than tough talk and rubber-stamp unity to beat the employers. It takes strong leadership, mobilized members and a plan to win. Some delegates tried to make this point in 2001.
After the Convention passed a unanimous resolution saying the union would “unite for victory” at UPS, Local 559 Secretary-Treasurer Tom Gilmartin proposed that the Convention “send a message of strength by building a strike fund to get ready to take UPS on with more than resolutions.”
Hoffa ignored Gilmartin and said, “Now we're moving on.” Instead of building a credible strike fund, he went on to settle the UPS contract two weeks early and set a pattern of weak national contracts that gutted members’ benefits.
What’s On Tap in 2006?
With the majority of delegates once again in his pocket, Hoffa plans to replay his Vegas lounge act this June.
Hoffa knows that Overnite, pension cuts, and declining union power have sunk his approval rating to an all-time low with Teamster members. He will pump out PR, videos, speeches and tough-talking resolutions—all funded with our dues dollars—to convince members that he is poised to take action.
We’ll be told that our union is launching campaigns to organize our nonunion competitors and to win a strong contract at UPS through early negotiations. We’ll be promised that Hoffa will fight for our pensions and health benefits at the bargaining table and in the halls of Congress.
Teamster members want and need our union to organize the unorganized, win strong contracts and fight for our benefits.
We have a responsibility to do our part and get involved to make that happen. In return, we have the right to expect our union leadership to present a clear plan to win—not just slogans.
Click here: Teamsters Will Have Choice in 2006