September 15, 2011: After the dramatic UPS strike victory of 1997, the Teamsters stood at the forefront of the labor movement. Teamster power was being reborn. But there were tough times ahead.
The coming years would see Ron Carey’s reform efforts ended, and the coming to power of James Hoffa and the old-guard officials around him.
Some people predicted TDU would die. But TDU stayed the course through difficult times, kept our principles, and built the Teamster reform movement.
TDU has been the watchdog organization that members could trust to tell the truth, when all they got from Hoffa was PR.
Hoffa Takes Power
Hoffa made big promises to win office in late 1998. His slate was called the “Jim Hoffa No Corruption, No Dues Increase, 25-and-Out Slate.” It was up to TDU to hold the Hoffa administration accountable to members.
Within a year of taking office, Hoffa added 137 multiple salaries to the IBT payroll. He used multiple salaries as part of a “carrot-and-stick” strategy to get support among officials. Get on board, get a check. Those who spoke out often found a “Personal Representative” assigned to their local to undermine them.
Hoffa broke all his promises. No dues increase? He held a special three-hour convention in Las Vegas to raise members’ dues from 2 to 2.5 hours, with the International taking most of the increase. The income of the International was doubled.
No corruption? He hired former U.S. Attorney Ed Stier to combat corruption, but Stier resigned in 2004 and stated that “The problem is Hoffa” regarding Teamster corruption.
25-and-out? His administration ended that in major pension funds, and his disastrous 2007 decision to cave in to UPS has put the Central States Pension Fund on life support.
TDU and the Future
Through the Hoffa years, rank-and-file Teamsters who support TDU have provided an alternative voice and alternative vision.
TDU has been there, to support candidates in 2001 and 2006 so that Hoffa has to face an election, and be accountable to the members. He won those elections, but TDU preserved Teamster democracy. Without TDU, there would have been no elections at all.
TDU has been there, to help members reform locals, learn how to negotiate contracts, enforce our legal rights, and more.
Some national contracts negotiated by Hoffa have been rejected, including the recent one for United Airline mechanics. Hoffa’s power to run roughshod over locals and members has been held in check.
As we approach the 2011 election, members again have a choice. They can vote for five more years of Hoffa, or they can elect Sandy Pope for a new day and a new direction.
TDU members can take pride in being the driving force in making that choice possible.