Making the Case for the Right to Vote
September 18, 2014: Petitions signed by more than 12,000 Teamsters are on the way to Judge Loretta Preska calling on her to rule against the Hoffa administration’s bid to end fair elections for International Union officers.
TDU legal counsel, Barbara Harvey, has submitted a letter to the court defending the Right to Vote and asking the Judge to hold a hearing on the issues.
Judge Preska oversees the consent order, a court-approved agreement that guarantees Teamster members the Right to Vote in independently-supervised elections with fair rules. The Hoffa administration is going to court to overturn this agreement.
The Hoffa administration has already pushed through an amendment to the Teamster Constitution that would give them the power to hand-pick the election supervisor and write their own election rules. (See Article III, Section 5(a)(2))
We know what that would look like.
Earlier this year, the Hoffa administration re-wrote the rules in the middle of the UPS contract vote so they could impose UPS contracts that had been rejected by the members—including a 93 percent No Vote in Louisville.
In an earlier contract vote in the carhaul industry, TDU exposed in federal court that Hoffa’s handpicked election supervisor had certified fraudulent voting results without ever seeing the ballots or voting results let alone supervising the vote count.
The consent order agreement overseen by Judge Preska is the only thing standing in the way of an election with sham rules and a phony election supervisor controlled by Hoffa.
That’s why Hoffa administration attorneys are going to court to try to gut it. And that’s why Teamster members are fighting back.
TDU has always opposed government interference in the union. But we support the consent order’s requirement that Teamster members have the Right to Vote for International Union officers in independently-supervised elections with fair rules.
Teamster members have made their voices heard through the petition drive. TDU and our legal counsel will continue to press the case.
Hoffa Targets Teamster Voting Rights
August 29, 2014: Hoffa administration lawyers are filing a motion before Federal Judge Loretta Preska in a bid to curtail fair, independently supervised elections in the Teamsters.
Judge Preska can’t just hear from Hoffa. She needs to hear from us.
More than 10,000 Teamsters have signed an Open Letter to Judge Preska—including over 3,700 online signatures.
Help defend our right to vote:
Sign the petition online and make your voice heard.
Email a link to the petition to your friends and asking them to and sharing it on your Facebook wall?
We've Topped 12,000!
Updated September 12, 2014: More than 12,000 Teamsters have signed the petition to save the Right to Vote for International Union officers. There's still time to make our voices heard.
Hoffa administration lawyers are filing a motion before Federal Judge Loretta Preska in a bid to curtail fair, independently supervised elections in the Teamsters.
More than 12,000 Teamsters have signed petitions to save the Right to Vote for International Union officers. This includes more than 4,000 Teamsters who have signed our online petition as well as 8,000 petition signatures that have been collected by TDU members.
What Happens Next
The Hoffa administration is filing papers with Judge Preska. Later in September, Judge Preska is expected to meet with attorneys for the Hoffa administration and the U.S. Attorney.
Teamsters for a Democratic Union (TDU) will present our position to the court—and we will deliver petition signatures from over 10,000 members. A decision from the Judge could come in early Fall.
Help defend the Right to Vote.
Sign the petition online and make your voice heard.
Copy and Email this link to your friends sharing it on your Facebook wall.
Mail your completed petitions immediately to:
PO Box 10128
Detroit, MI 48210
If you’d like to learn more about this important issue, contact TDU at 313-842-2600 or info [at] tdu.org. We’ll be happy to answer your questions and let you know how you can be involved in the work to defend Teamsters’ right to vote.
IRB Charges All Local 710 Officers
August 21, 2014: The Independent Review Board (IRB) has moved to bring charges against all the officers of Chicago Local 710. According to the report of charges dated August 15, all members of the Executive Board violated their fiduciary duty when they repeatedly approved the purchase of excess visa gift cards under the control of Local Secretary Treasurer Pat Flynn.
Flynn was charged in July, and on July 30 the local was put into trusteeship following a recommendation by the IRB. Those actions are detailed here.
The new charges hit Local 710 president Mike Sweeney and fellow officers Gerald Pauli, Charles DeCola, Larry Alexander, Anthony Lamy, and Kevin Wagoner. They were already removed from office when the trusteeship was imposed. Now they face a hearing and possible expulsion or suspension from Teamster membership.
The report states that between 2008 and September 2013, the officers breached their fiduciary duty and failed to protect the members’ assets. For example, in November 2011 they approved the purchase of 1000 visa gift cards to be given to meeting attendees, but only 600 members were present, and the remaining 400 cards were under Flynn’s personal control.
Hoffa appointed International vice president John Coli as Trustee of Local 710. Coli has no experience in representing the UPS, freight, trucking, and grocery Teamsters who make up the 13,000 member local. He has political operative Brian Rainville running the local. Rainville was paid $178,080 in 2013 by the International and Chicago Joint Council 25. Some 7000 UPS Teamsters in Local 710 rejected a concessionary contract last February by 73% No vote, and have heard nothing since about negotiating an improved contract.
Trusteeship Hits Chicago Local 710
July 31, 2014: James Hoffa yesterday imposed an “emergency” trusteeship over Local 710, and appointed Chicago Teamster boss John Coli as trustee. The trusteeship follows a July 17 report by the Independent Review Board on the lack of financial controls in the local union.
Many members of Local 710 are eager to clean house in the next election, and want to know how this trusteeship will affect those efforts.
A trusteeship is “presumed invalid” after 18 months, so we fully expect an election on that time schedule. That will be in early 2016, just the same time that Local 710 – and almost all locals – will elect delegates to the 2016 IBT Convention where candidates will be nominated to run for General President and all IBT offices, including Coli’s office.
A majority of the local’s 13,000 members are employed by UPS, ABF, UPS Freight and YRC. All of those groups of workers have rejected concessions by big margins in the past year, and are ready for real changes. Many have contacted Teamsters for a Democratic Union since yesterday to talk about future plans
The local includes all UPS Teamsters in Illinois outside the Chicago area, as well as Northern Indiana and Davenport, Iowa.
Those 6,000 UPS Teamsters rejected their contract last February by a 73% margin, and since then have been in the dark. The union falsely put on the ballot that a rejection would lead to an immediate strike.
Trustee John Coli will now oversee bargaining with UPS. Coli supported every concessionary deal that the IBT has served up at UPS, UPS Freight, ABF and YRC.
The IRB Report details the charges against Local 710 secretary-treasurer Pat Flynn for purchasing $58,000 worth of gift cards over several years, without any accounting of what happened to those visa cards. It goes on to note that the local entered into leases and car purchases without executive board approval; that the trustees on the executive board did not review the cancelled checks compared to the books; and that the local financial reports failed to disclose $494,468 in “commissions” owed to officers. That liability would have led to the local reporting large negative net assets.
Members of Local 710 interested in being kept informed of developments can contact TDU by calling 313-842-2600 or emailing info [at] tdu.org
Hoffa Escalates Attack on the Right to Vote
July 30, 2014: The Hoffa administration is escalating its attack on Teamster voting rights. Hoffa administration lawyers are filing new papers with Judge Loretta Preska in a bid to end fair, independently supervised elections in the Teamsters. The case could be decided as early as September.
Judge Preska can’t just hear from Hoffa. She needs to hear from us.
More than 3,000 Teamsters have signed an Open Letter to Judge Preska, including 1,744 who have signed online.
We’ve set a goal of delivering 10,000 petition signatures to Judge Loretta Preska by Labor Day.
Can you help us reach our goal and save the right to vote by:
Clicking here to sign the petition?
Emailing a link to the petition to your friends and asking them to sign and sharing it on your Facebook wall?
If you’d like copies of the petition form and a leaflet explaining the issue to distribute, please contact TDU at 313-842-2600 or info [at] tdu.org and we’ll be happy to mail you a packet immediately.
You can click here to read more background on this campaign and on the importance of independent oversight in protecting members’ rights.
Corruption-Free? Not so Fast
July 24, 2014: Hoffa claims there’s no need for an anti-corruption body in our union because corruption is a thing of the past. Meanwhile, two Hoffa campaign donors have been busted this week on charges of stealing members’ dues and taking employer payoffs.
The Hoffa administration has retained two attorneys who formerly worked for President George W. Bush to try to end the members Right to Vote, and also the Independent Review Board (IRB).
The IRB independently investigates corruption in the Teamsters. The Hoffa administration says the IRB should be eliminated because Teamster corruption is a thing of the past.
That is news to Teamster members in Connecticut Local 1150 where the IRB has charged the top official with embezzling union funds and in St. Louis area construction locals where the IRB has caught a union representative taking payoffs in exchange for sweetheart contracts.
When TDU was founded organized crime dominated the Teamsters Union at its highest levels. There’s no doubt that Teamster corruption is down since then, but that is precisely because members have the Right to Vote and an independent anti-corruption watchdog.
TDU is organizing members to defend the Right to Vote and root out corruption in the union. If you share these goals, you can say so by signing this petition.
IRB Charges Connecticut Local 1150 President
IRB Charges St. Louis Bad Apple
Petition: Don’t Let Hoffa End Fair Elections in the Teamsters
Hoffa Threatens Teamster Democracy
Facing fresh member dissatisfaction, Teamster President James Hoffa and his Secretary-Treasurer Ken Hall are headed to court to try to make contested Teamster elections a thing of the past.
Whether they succeed will determine the future of one of North America’s most powerful unions. Will it continue to manage decline and concessions, or tap the power of organized transport and distribution workers to reverse them?
The 1.25 million-member International Brotherhood of Teamsters (IBT) is unique among the largest North American unions in that every five years it has a hotly contested rank-and-file election for the top leadership.
The right to vote is protected by a 1989 consent order, a court-approved agreement that Teamster officers reluctantly accepted to avoid a racketeering trial.
In that landmark legal case, the reform movement Teamsters for a Democratic Union intervened to oppose court-imposed government oversight of the union’s operations. Instead, to root out systemic corruption, TDU proposed that members directly elect top officers.
Previously, Teamster presidents were elected at conventions. The 1986 “election” gave incumbent Jackie Presser 99 percent of the vote.
USING THE VOTE
TDU’s blueprint was largely adopted, and 1991 saw the first-ever election. Members used their new vote to elect a whole new leadership slate, headed by Ron Carey. The candidate who’d gotten 1 percent under the old system, Sam Theodus, easily won the rank-and-file vote for vice president.
The election rocked not only the Teamsters, but the labor movement. The first-ever contested election in the AFL-CIO quickly followed.
After Carey won again in 1996, defeating Hoffa, he led UPS workers out on strike in 1997. With bold demands such as 10,000 more full-time jobs (with the rallying cry, “Part-Time America Won’t Work”) and innovative tactics that evolved over the year of rank-and-file organizing leading up it, this strike started to put labor on the offensive.
That success was tragically cut short later that year when aides to Carey were found engaging in illegal campaign fundraising. The scandal paved the way for Hoffa’s rise and the old guard’s return to power.
Now the Hoffa administration has taken the first step to try to end the consent order by submitting a letter to federal judge Loretta Preska. The IBT claims the consent order is no longer needed because the union is reformed.
The U.S. Attorney and TDU have submitted letters opposing the change . TDU is also intervening in the court proceedings and has launched a campaign to defend the right to vote.
TDU agrees that mob control of the union has diminished—precisely because the right to vote has given members a tool to tackle corruption and hold leaders accountable.
Other unions have membership elections in their constitution, but what makes the Teamsters unique is independently supervised elections, coupled with an organized national reform movement of leaders, activists, and members. It’s TDU that gives life to members’ right to vote.
Hoffa and Hall claim their goal is to end government oversight. But their real target is the one-member, one-vote elections.
To be clear, there is no “government oversight” of any of the union’s operations—not bargaining, political action, organizing, contract campaigns, budgets, salaries, or hiring and firing.
Instead, the consent order provides for an Independent Review Board, selected by IBT leadership and the U.S. Attorney, to bring corruption charges against individual officials. And it provides for the right to vote for international officers under fair election rules.
Both are important to members, but the right to vote is the most critical.
Without these rules, the current leaders will be free to change nomination requirements to make it impossible for opposition candidates to get on the ballot.
Currently, nominations for top offices require 5 percent of elected convention delegates. But the incumbents want to raise that bar.
Every challenger to Hoffa has met the 5 percent requirement, but none would have been nominated if 10 percent were required—though each, once nominated, ran a competitive race and forced national debates on the union’s direction.
Teamster leaders have already amended the IBT constitution so the board can write its own rules for any election and pick the election supervisor. For now, these amendments are trumped by the provisions of the consent order.
But if the consent order were lifted, these safeguards would go out the window.
So would election rules that partially level the playing field by providing opposition campaigners’ access to employer parking lots, “battle pages” of campaign material in the Teamster magazine, and fair rules for delegate elections.
Hoffa and Hall have good reason to make this move now. Hoffa, who won reelection in 2011 with 59 percent of the vote, faces a different political outlook as the 2015-2016 campaign approaches.
Over the past year, the majority of members in the freight industry, UPS Freight, and UPS have all voted to reject concessions in their contracts—only to have them imposed by Hoffa and Hall.
The Vote No movement helped launch a new formation, Take Back Our Union, that’s already organizing meetings to plan for the 2016 election.
Hoffa won most of the UPS locals in 2011. But his prospects among that group of 250,000 Teamsters look much dimmer today. And dissatisfaction is not limited to just UPS and trucking Teamsters: Hoffa’s policy of retreat has led to defeats and lackluster organizing in warehousing, delivery, public service, airlines, and other Teamster fields.
Take Back Our Union has started to forge a coalition of the opposition forces in the union, bringing together TDU, which backed New York Local 805 President Sandy Pope in the 2011 election, and other local officials who ran on a separate slate.
Combined, these contenders won 41 percent last time—and that was before this wave of membership anger at concessions.
Once again, members are gearing up to take the wheel of the union.
IBT Election Timeline
November 7-9, 2014
Click here and contact us to find out more about how to get involved in the IBT Election.
What Will It Take to Win in 2016?
June 13, 2014: The next International Union election will be held in 2016. What will it take to elect new Teamster leadership?
Two years from now, the IBT Convention will be held in Las Vegas to nominate candidates for General President and all 28 International officers.
Will there be reform delegates from your local union? Who will be nominated there? What will it take to win and how can we get started now?
The Vote No movement showed that a majority of Teamsters in key industries oppose Hoffa-Hall’s concessions. What happens now that the national contracts have been settled and, in the case of UPS, imposed on the members?
Will Teamsters opposed to concessions become a force for change? That depends on what Teamsters like you do now. Being fed up won’t do the job.
We need a united, national campaign organization of members in every industry working together to channel that anger into votes for change.
Members are forming a network, Take Back Our Union, to start the education process, build local committees of members who will run for convention delegate and nominate and support a coalition of candidates.
Initial meetings are being held and more will be scheduled.
Why Start Early
Hoffa and Hall have a built-in campaign organization: they have a huge payroll with over 100 officials getting multiple salaries from the IBT. Hoffa and Hall don’t have to start early because they have already have a fundraising and campaign patronage machine.
We need a different kind of machine, a grassroots army of Teamster volunteers.
How the Election Works
The IBT Election is governed by Election Rules and overseen by an independent Election Supervisor.
Ballots will be mailed to all Teamsters in October 2016, but the election process starts nearly two years before that, when an Election Supervisor is named.
Next June (2015) petitioning starts to accredit candidates; accreditation entitles candidates to get a copy of the Teamster membership list and to reach members through campaign pages in five issues of the Teamster magazine.
Members in every local union elect convention delegates to represent them at the Teamster Convention where candidates for International Union office are officially nominated.
In the last election, many locals where members voted against Hoffa were represented at the convention by officers who nominated Hoffa-Hall and tried to keep all opposition candidates off ballot.
It’s up to active members to make sure that doesn't happen again. We need to start organizing now and forming local committees.
What it Takes to Win
Hoffa has been able to win the last three elections with 60-65 percent of the vote. To defeat him, it will take about 200,000 votes. What will it take to achieve this goal?
- A Grassroots Army. Hoffa has a top-down machine; we need a grassroots army. TDU has analyzed the local-by-local results from the last six IBT elections. In each election, members voted for reform in local unions where Teamsters were actively campaigning for reform candidates. We need boots on the ground to win.
- A Campaign War Chest. We do not have to outspend Hoffa because we will outwork him. But we need to raise enough money to pay for campaign mailings to the membership and other Get Out the Vote costs. It will take at least $500,000 to win.
- A Full Slate and Coalition Effort. Last time anti-Hoffa forces split into two camps. Together, they carried a majority of the votes in over 100 locals. There is growing momentum toward a united coalition that includes not only TDU but everyone who wants to rebuild Teamster power. That is what Take Back Our Union is all about.