Held every five years, the Teamster Convention is the top decision-making body in our union. The next convention is scheduled for June 2006 in Las Vegas. TDU members have resolved to crash the party with an action plan to rebuild Teamster power.
“Our dues are up but our union is shrinking. Officer salaries are growing and members’ pensions are being cut. Anyway you look at it, our union is getting weaker. The Hoffa administration needs a wake-up call and we’re going to give it to them at the Teamster Convention,” says Antonio Caldera of Chicago Local 743.
In late 2005 and early 2006, every Teamster local will hold an election to select delegates to the IBT Convention. TDU members recently voted to make fielding reform slates in these delegate elections a major priority for our organization in the coming year.
Nominating Candidates for Top Teamster Office
“From nominating candidates for International office to amending the constitution, the Teamster Convention is where it all happens,” said Bill Zimmerman, of Oregon Local 206, who was an elected delegate to the 1996 and 2001 Teamster Conventions.
Candidates for International office are officially nominated at the Teamster Convention. Candidates need to be nominated by at least 5% of the delegates to be eligible to run in the 2006 election.
“At the 2006 Convention, we’ll be able to nominate candidates for the International union election that will really fight for rank and file Teamsters,” Zimmerman added.
“My local officers still support Hoffa, but after the dues increase and the pension cuts, members feel very different,” says Nichelle Fulmore, a UPS package car driver in Lumberton, N.C. “It’s vital that we send dedicated rank and file members to the convention who will stand up for the rights of the membership.”
Winning New Constitutional Rights
The delegates to the IBT Convention also have the power to amend everything in the Teamster constitution.
Many of the protections Teamster members now enjoy were first proposed as constitutional amendments by reform delegates, including:
- The right to vote for international union officers,
- The right to vote for convention delegates,
- Majority rule on contracts,
- The right to vote on contract supplements and riders,
- Salary caps for international union officials,
- Sovereignty for Canadian Teamsters.
Delegates to next year’s convention will have the chance to introduce new constitutional reforms—like requiring a membership vote on any dues increase, capping bloated officers’ salaries at a reasonable rate, increasing funding for organizing the nonunion competition, and making pension fund trustees accountable to the members.
“I want to see delegates on the floor of that convention who are willing to stand up and demand that pension fund trustees be accountable to the members,” says Rick Sather of Local 638, who works at the Minneapolis Star-Tribune.
“We’re going to put together a strong team of delegate candidates and we’re going to make the voice of the members heard.”
Strengthening Teamster Reform in Your Local
Running for delegate can mean more than being part of a movement for national change. It can also boost your efforts to rebuild Teamster power in your local union.
Milwaukee Teamsters Tim Buban and Darryl Connell say running for delegate helped reformers win the Local 200 officers’ election.
“We ran a slate in the 2001 delegate election and won,” Buban says. “Members got to know us and what we stood for. It also built up our campaign network. There’s no doubt that winning the delegate election helped put us over the top in the local race.”
Unlike local elections, the delegate races are overseen by an independent election administrator. The election rules will be similar to those used in past national elections with important protections that level the playing field for rank and file challengers.
What You Can Do Now
TDU members are gearing up now for these important delegate races. It starts with letting members know what’s at stake at the convention and why the delegate races are so important.
“In the past, our local officers just nominated themselves and no one else ran for delegate,” says Barry Strohl, a Roadway driver in Greenville,S.C., who belongs to Local 28.
“This time it will be different. We’ve already started working to make sure that members have a choice in the delegate elections. We need to send people to the Teamster convention who will represent the members, not their own personal interests.”
To be eligible to run for delegate, candidates need to have paid their dues on time each month for 24 months before the delegate election.
Contact TDU today at (313) 842-2600 for more information or to set up a workshop on running for delegate.