Reform Teamsters, spearheaded by TDU, have succeeded in directing members’ dues money away from fat-cat salaries and into programs that build union power.
But millions of dollars in members’ dues are still wasted every year on bloated salaries and a patronage scheme of multiple salaries that the Hoffa administration pays to buy political loyalty.
Those are the findings of this year’s analysis of Teamster financial reports by the Teamster Rank and File Education and Legal Defense Foundation. For 27 years, TDU has published these findings in our annual $100,000 Club.
TDU publishes the facts. No sugar-coating and no partisanship: we publish the name of every Teamster official who makes over the limit, regardless of whether they are a friend or foe of TDU, committed Teamster or do-nothing fat-cat.
As a direct result of TDU’s work to cut dues waste and cap outrageous salaries, millions of dues dollars have been saved. Last year, Hoffa’s total compensation was $297,772. At one time, the Teamster General President’s multiple salaries, adjusted for inflation, added up to more than $1 million.
While the salaries of our union’s fat-cats have fallen, 78 Teamster officials still make more than $150,000 a year, and 24 make more than $200,000 a year. Nineteen people on the Hoffa Slate are already in the $150,000 Club and 13 have salaries over $200,000.
Hoffa Buying Votes With Your Dues?
Last year, your dues paid $773,000 to two political consultants, Greg Tarpinian and Richard Leebove, both key Hoffa Campaign consultants.
Hoffa doled out an incredible $8.4 million last year to 164 Teamster officials who already earn at least one other union salary. Multiple salaries have skyrocketed by 764 percent since Hoffa took office. These salaries function as a patronage system to officers who are expected to turn out the vote for Hoffa in return.
Mobilizing for Change
For three decades, TDU has pushed for financial reforms to cut dues waste and build union power. How has the $100,000 Club changes our Teamsters Union? What progress has ben made? What remains to be done?
TDU began publishing the “$100,000 Club” in 1979. Armed with this information, and the Right to Vote, Teamsters have demanded financial reforms and won them.
In 1987, Teamster President Jackie presser bagged $609,984 in multiple salaries. In today’s dollars (adjusted for inflation), that would be over $1 million. International Vice President Arnie Weinmeister made $443,612 that year. Others, like Weldon Mathis, took home $305,914. They used union-owned jets to go to golf resorts.
In 1989, Teamsters won the Right to Vote after TDU’s plan was adopted as part of the consent order to settle the racketeering suit against top Teamster leaders. Thanks to TDU, Teamsters had a tool for holding top Teamster officers accountable for their outrageous dues waste. That changed everything. Incumbents like Mathis and Weinmeister were forced to drop out of the race for International Office. Members were not going to elect those millionaires.
The incumbent slate, in an attempt to win the election, even adopted part of TDU’s platform! At the 1991 IBT Convention, they capped the General President’s salary at $225,000 plus an unlimited cost of living clause. No International officer or rep is allowed to use multiple salaries to make more than the General President.
The fat cats were on the run. TDU’s platform was gaining ground. Then it took a leap forward.
In December 1991, Ron Carey won the General President position and took decisive action to change the fat cat life style. The union limo and jet planes were sold. He lowered his own salary to $150,000 and began to phase out multiple salaries. TDU continued to publish the $100,000 Club and press for more reforms.
In 1993, Ron Carey abolished the “Area Conferences” which were a useless layer of bureaucracy. In one day, 65 multiple salaries were eliminated, and millions of dues dollars returned to local unions.
By 1996, even James Hoffa had to support TDU’s financial reforms—at least in his campaign platform. Hoffa promised to “cut n cap” with no International officer allowed to make over $150,000 by using multiple salaries.
When Hoffa won office in late 1998, he abandoned the platform. He raised his own salary, brought back multiple salaries, and pays himself and Tom Keegel a lucrative “housing allowance” to pad their income more.
Despite the setbacks and renewed waste under Hoffa, TDU’s hard-won reforms still have staying power.
Look at the $150,000 Club today. No one is bagging the kind of money they used to get – the members just won’t tolerate it. Our union is more democratic, thanks to the Right to Vote and the fact that TDU is there to get the facts out.
The result is less financial waste and more money for strike benefits and organizing. Can we do better? You bet. But where would our Teamsters Union be without TDU and the $100,000 Club?
Observing Vote Count an Honor
I went to Washington to be an observer of the vote count. When I got to the vote count, I walked out into this big open room, filled with tables, chairs, mail bins and lots of noise: people talking, mail bins being moved, votes being counted by the counter. This was really exciting. I was assigned to Remarks and Remakes. Here, ballots that could not be read were either remarked or entirely remade. Standing or sitting there observing for an hour or two was quite demanding.
I am very proud to meet, talk with and spend time working toward the election of Tom Leedham and Sandy Pope. It’s an experience that I will never forget. I thank Tom and Sandy for running a campaign of which I feel they should be very proud. I congratulate Hoffa on his win and hope that he will work toward building a better Teamsters Union for supporters and non-supporters because we are all Teamsters.
Local 743, Central States Office
Corruption in Rail?
The TDU reported discovering evidence that President Don Hahs has been using BLET union funds to pay personal financial obligations. A TDU source further stated that the evidence of Mr. Hahs misuse of funds had been turned over to the appropriate authorities. TDU also called on Jimmy Hoffa to investigate, but I doubt that he will do anything about it.
In another incident not too long ago, two successive presidents of the United Transportation Union (UTU) found themselves in hot water over illegal solicitation of funds (extortion) and what amounted to a form of blackmail. Their cases were prosecuted by Federal authorities because the UTU is an interstate organization. Both men were found guilty and are currently serving time as guests of the Federal Government.
The BLET, like the UTU, is an interstate organization as well. Our country’s laws state that one is innocent until proven guilty and I fully agree. Therefore, it is my sincere wish that there be a full investigation of Mr. Hahs’ activities. And then, IF SUBSEQUENTLY FOUND GUILTY of a crime, Mr. Hahs and any other involved BLET official will be required to join their UTU counterparts in closed government quarters.
BLET Div. 483, Retired
Who Will Change Our Union?
I have read the articles in Convoy Dispatch at work. I would like to think there is a union out there that embodies the ideas that are talked about in your paper.
I have been a Teamster for 15 years, and the union has gotten weaker during that time. What the older guys say about what a union used to do, and how everyone worked together—that is non-existent! I am one of those guys that is old school, willing to sacrifice now for the future, the way the union was when it was first established. Now everyone just thinks about themselves—not about the strength we could have together.
I don’t know how to solve all the problems that plague our union. I have talked to our union officials, but nothing is being done. No one wants to take an initiative to start change! Our senior steward just retired 10 months ago. He asked me personally to become a steward, but with much deliberation, I had to refuse. I am not one to sit by idle and not represent a union member, but there isn’t any way to be a steward and not get frustrated to death!
I could go on and on and on, but the question is: where do we start? Who do we get to organize reform? How do we show UPS we won’t be walked on?
Local 317, UPS
Editor's Note: Many Teamsters feel hopeless: 79 percent didn't vote in the recent IBT election and many choose not to get involved. But with corporations on the warpath, TDU believes defeatism is not an option. We believe change is possible. Together we are powerful.
In the last issue of Convoy, Larry Macdonald was incorrectly identified as employed by Roadway. Brother Macdonald was a mechanic at Yellow, and currently serves as the Secretary-Treasurer of Local 728 in Atlanta.
CONVOY DISPATCH is the voice of Teamsters for a Democratic Union. We are the united rank and file movement to reform the Teamsters, created out of the merger of PROD and TDU.
We are truck drivers, dock workers, production workers—every kind of Teamster, and spouses, too.
We are a grassroots organization with chapters from coast to coast in the USA and Canada. We believe in returning this union to the membership and we are doing it. We are a democratic organization in which every member has a voice and vote. Our 15-member International Steering Committee was elected in Sept. 2006 for one year. Our Rank & File Convention had 250 representatives present.
We are proud Teamsters standing up for our rights. TDU invites all Teamsters interested in defending our contracts and reforming our union to join us. We do reserve the right to exclude those who are opposed to TDU and its principles.
Rank & File Bill of Rights
I. DEMOCRATIC BYLAWS. All business agents and stewards should be elected. Vacancies in office should be filled by special election within three months. Local union committees should be elected. Contract and strike votes should be by majority (not two-thirds). All contracts should provide for elected officers retaining company seniority.
II. DIRECT ELECTION OF OFFICERS. General President and all International officers should be elected by the membership. International VPs should be elected by regions. No more trusteeships and split-off locals.
III. A FAIR GRIEVANCE PROCEDURE. Innocent until proven guilty, right to remain on the job until final procedure completed. Grievance procedure should include right to a speedy trial, arbitration by peers, and the right to strike if necessary.
IV. PRESERVATION OF WORKING CONDITIONS. The union's purpose is to expand and preserve what we have, not trade it away for less. People come first, not productivity.
V. SAFETY AND HEALTH. We have the right to enter the workplace without fear for our health and leave in the same condition we arrive. Teamsters should have the right, backed by our union, to refuse unsafe work or hazardous conditions. We are not machinery.
VI. EIGHT-HOUR DAY AND FIVE-DAY WEEK. Forced overtime and unfair dispatch rules destroy our family life and cost us jobs. No mandatory overtime, “flexible” work weeks, or 70-hour slavery. We are for the advent of the four-day work week. We work to live, not live to work!
VII. A DECENT PENSION. Every dollar in the pension funds belongs to us. We are entitled to 25-and-out, cost of living on pensions, and union pension trustees elected by the rank and file and retirees to safeguard our money.
VIII. JUST SALARIES FOR OFFICERS. A union officer can’t understand the problems of members who make less than half what he or she makes. No officer should make more than the highest paid working members in their jurisdiction. No multiple salaries from union, company, or government sources, or special fringes and pensions. Salary increases limited to the average increase for members, and subject to membership approval.
IX. EQUALITY AMONG TEAMSTERS. Bring all wage levels up to the highest standards, not a lot for the few and little for the many. Fight the hardest for the lowest paid.
X. END TO DISCRIMINATION. Employers have used the differences in age, race and sex to divide us for decades. We oppose these injustices and divisions. Support affirmative action to correct past injustices. Employers should bear the cost of their past discrimination, not the members.
The following is an interview with Frank Halstead, a grocery worker at Ralphs in Los Angeles Local 572.
What are some examples of solidarity, within the IBT and without, that your chapter has been involved in?
Our solidarity work is all within the Teamsters. We have our hands full right here!
Currently we have a project around organizing a contract campaign for the Sysco facility. This has tremendous promise because we have numerous issues to rally around and we have a core group of TDUers who work there.
One important thing to keep in mind is that often solidarity work involves coming into play late in the game. For example, we got involved with the International Window workers (Teamster manufacturing workers) after they had been on strike for three months. Although our TDU chapter did a lot of good work, including a picket of the shareholders meeting, things were too far along and the local union in this case was not willing to do what needed to be done to win.
What basic suggestions would you have for other Teamsters who are interested in getting involved in their areas?
Every project we get involved in we have always been able to count on TDU and fellow reformers for sound advice and strategic suggestions.
It is vital to lead by example. Getting involved to help other workers also helps build credibility for TDU. The more people that see the truth about TDU the less effective the old guard’s attacks and lies will be. We are all human and we will make mistakes. Don't let that possibility prevent you from helping other workers. Your sincere desire to help your fellow workers will shine through and you will make a difference
See these related Articles:
Building Solidarity Beyond Your Work Place or Local
Vermont Workers’ Center
Street Heat in DC