POSTED BY MARTIN KICH
What follows are excerpts from an article on the recent Teamsters election, written by Alexandra Bradbury for Labor Notes:
For the first time in nearly two decades, reformers have won seats on the Teamsters’ international executive board—and come within a hair’s breadth of unseating the incumbent administration led by President James P. Hoffa.
The Teamsters United coalition slate, headed by Local 89 President Fred Zuckerman and backed by the longtime reform group Teamsters for a Democratic Union, contested all 12 at-large seats and nine of the 15 regional seats. They ran on a platform of refusing concessions, reviving contract enforcement, defending pensions, rooting out corruption, and organizing in the union’s core industries.
The challengers scored 49 percent of the vote. A swing of about 3,000 votes would have put new leaders in charge of the union.
Buoyed by the strong showing, candidates and supporters plan to keep building the Teamsters United coalition as a force to organize bottom-up contract campaigns, help members run for local union office, and expose corruption. . . .
Thanks to reformers’ efforts in earlier years, the union constitution guarantees Teamsters the right to elect their top officers directly, every five years. Out of 1.3 million eligible voters, about 214,000 voted in the month-long mail-ballot election.
Results were tallied November 14-17. Voters could choose a candidate for each contested seat, but almost all voted by slate. Teamsters United won outright in the South (with 57 percent) and Central (59 percent) regions, picking up all six vice president seats in those areas.
Though 95 percent of local presidents backed Hoffa, Zuckerman won the vote in 176 of the union’s 370 locals—including a number of powerful ones. The reformers expanded their reach beyond traditional strongholds like freight and carhaul to win in rail and airlines too.
In fact, after the whole U.S. vote was counted, reformers had the lead. But the needle moved in Hoffa’s favor after the Canadian votes were added. Turnout in Canada was far lower, but just 23 percent chose the challengers. . . .
Teamsters United rode a wave of anger over pension cuts and concessions in the union’s national contracts.
UPS workers make up 20 percent of the union’s membership. In 2013, rank-and-file UPSers held up the national contract by voting down most of its local supplements. Members were angry at the deal’s givebacks, especially an increase in out-of-pocket health care costs, at a time when UPS was hauling in profits of nearly $5 billion a year.
After members repeatedly rejected three regional supplements, Hoffa finally resorted to imposing the concessions. Members in those areas repaid him big-time this election, and Teamsters United won among the 250,000 UPSers. Bargaining for the next contract begins in 2017.
Meanwhile carhaulers, who transport new cars from auto plants and railyards to dealerships, have twice voted down a national deal that would cut wages and give companies nearly free rein to outsource work. Teamsters United has been pushing to replace Hoffa’s bargaining team with officers from the biggest carhaul locals—including some of the newly elected Central region vice presidents. . . .
On the heels of Donald Trump’s upset win in the U.S. presidential election, many of the same Rust Belt areas that swung Trump’s way turned out for Teamsters United. The challengers won majorities in Ohio, Wisconsin, and Pennsylvania, and across the Midwest and South.
“There was a big anti-incumbent feeling,” said UPS worker Nick Perry. In his union, Local 413 of Columbus, Ohio, the vote for Teamsters United was a staggering 1,044 to 38. . . .
Bradbury’s complete article is available at: http://labornotes.org/2016/12/election-squeaker-teamsters-united-nearly-topples-hoffa.