March 2006: New York City Teamsters rallied on the steps of City Hall on March 5 to protest comments by the head of the city’s Economic Development Corporation (EDC) calling Teamster warehouse workers “the lowest rung workers” whose jobs should be scrapped. Local 805 members have been fighting the city’s EDC, which is trying to shut down the last working port in Brooklyn. Teamster Local 807 jobs are also on the chopping block. Carrying signs that said, “Save my job,” and “We are NOT low-rung workers,” Teamsters rallied on the steps of City Hall along with supporters from other locals and pro-labor politicians. Local 805 President Sandy Pope told the rally, “This city is not run by Wall Street or the city bureaucrats. It is run by the people who move the goods.” Pope called on the mayor to save the port jobs and make a “public commitment to respect the workers of this city.”
Politics of Division
The day before the rally, Local 805 members received a pre-recorded message from the Teamster General President. But Hoffa wasn’t calling members to turn them out for the rally. Instead, Hoffa called to attack Sandy Pope. Hoffa has poured thousands of dollars into the Local 805 delegate election to try to defeat Pope, a candidate for International Vice President. But you would think the General President could put politics aside for one day while members are fighting for their jobs. “The day before we’re uniting at City Hall to save Teamster jobs, including mine, President Hoffa was phoning us to try to divide our local. And he’s the head of the ‘Unity Slate?’ said shop steward Michael Ambrose. “To me, unity is about bringing workers together to win a better future for ourselves. That’s what Sandy Pope has done for us at American Warehousing.” In January, a mobilization by Teamster members forced the Port Authority to allow a blockaded ship to dock at the port so it could be unloaded by Teamsters. That victory has saved their jobs for now. The fight to preserve Teamster port jobs continues. It would be nice if Hoffa would join it.