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Trouble brewing for the boss of union bosses

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Teamsters’ Jimmy Hoffa Faces Challenge

Trouble brewing for the boss of union bosses

Ballots go out this week for a critically important election in November.

No, not the referendum on what is passing for Republican "leadership" in Washington.  I’m talking about the election to decide which big-government liberal union boss will run the Teamsters for the next several years.

The oddsmakers on the street say Jimmy Hoffa—the live son, not the missing dad—will win re-election handily, despite the fact that he chickened out of the one required debate with his opponent, Tom Leedham, held in August.  But that’s not to say some of the lemming-like natives in the rank-and-file aren’t getting restless.

And since such unrest has ramifications for the business community and national politics, now might be a good time to take a closer look at the incredible shrinking labor movement in general, and the Hoffa-led Teamsters in particular.

A friend sent me a copy of the September 2006 edition of the Teamsters’
monthly magazine, which focused almost entirely on the union’s summer convention held in Las Vegas.  And for the uninitiated, the convention coverage will tell you just about all you need to know about the Teamsters and their decidedly left-wing politics.

For example, on Page 7 you’ll find this socialist gem from Boss Hoffa’s keynote address to convention delegates:  "We must grow if we are going to make health care a right and not a privilege.  We must grow if we are going to make retirement security a right and not a privilege."  Hillary Clinton herself couldn’t have said it better.

Then on Page 9 the magazine highlights two changes to the union’s constitution.  The first one added language "that prohibits membership discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation."  I guess the only surprise here is that it took them so long to adopt that one.  The other was adding language celebrating "diversity."  You’ll be happy to know that your Teamsters union "is pursuing educational programs that emphasize diversity at every level of the union."  How sweet.

But in case you’re still not sure as to exactly how far left the union is on the political scale, photos of two key speakers at the confab should remove all doubt:  Actor Danny Glover and comedian Al Franken.  If the Teamsters had been able to land Barbra Streisand, they’d have hit a liberal trifecta.

And what Big Labor get-together would be complete with a healthy dose of world-class hypocrisy?

On the inside back-cover, in a special "Election Supervisor’s Report to IBT Members," Richard W. Mark explains that "Every member has the right to vote their own ballot in secret" in the upcoming election of union leaders.  Yet on Page 28, the headline boasts:  "Winning With Card-Check."

In case you don’t know, "card check" refers to the process where workers are coerced by union organizers to sign cards saying they want a union.  When a majority of workers sign the cards, employers would be required to recognize the union.  "Card check" means workers no longer get to decide whether or not they want union representation via a "secret ballot."

So Teamsters members get to cast ballots for union leaders in secret, but non-union workers don’t get to cast ballots in secret when it comes to deciding whether or not they want to become Teamsters.  Secret ballots for me, but not for thee.  How typical.

All in all, the special "2006 Convention" issue of Teamsters magazine was what you’d expect: a slick, multi-page campaign ad touting the success of the Teamsters under the leadership of President Hoffa.  However, union’s rules "permits a nominated candidate for International office to publish campaign literature published in the Teamster magazine."  And the Leedhamites took full advantage of the opportunity with nine full pages of anti-Hoffa material in the back of the magazine.

"To Hoffa, ‘Teamster Power’ is Just a PR Slogan" screams the headline on Page 47.  Featuring a picture of two picket-holding workers standing in front of a Waste Management company trash dumpster, Leedham’s ad reads:

"When these brave Teamsters went on strike against the world’s biggest waste hauler, Hoffa hung them out to dry.  More than 8,500 Teamsters work for Waste Management nationwide, but Hoffa left 115 members of Local 813 to fight alone in New York City and condemned their strike to defeat."

Hardly a ringing endorsement for continued Hoffa leadership.

"Hoffa’s pension cuts will cost me $500 a month for life when I retire," says Teamster John Morud in another ad on Page 49.  "Hoffa says we need early bargaining to protect our benefits.  But who will protect us from Hoffa?"

Then there was this headline on Page 50:  "Fasten Your Seatbelts!  Hoffa Healthcare Cuts Are Next."  The full-page ad explains:  "First Hoffa cut our pensions and retiree healthcare.  Next, tens of thousands of Teamsters will be hit by major healthcare cuts because Hoffa diverted money for medical coverage to the Central States Pension Fund."  The ad includes a picture of Teamster Joe Medrano who is quoted as saying, "Because of Hoffa’s cuts to my healthcare, my family just got hit with whopping co-pays.  Our annual out-of-pocket maximum skyrocketed."

On the opposite page, Teamster Rick Slather puts his feelings toward the son of the legendary union boss in stark terms:  "Hoffa Lied and Cut Our Benefits."  On Page 52, Teamster Jim Price says, "I saw firsthand how Hoffa destroyed our organizing drive at Overnight."  On Page 53, Teamster Kathy DeBorde declares that "Hoffa put us in this mess," while Teamster Dan Scott says, "Hoffa’s all talk."

And finally, on Page 55 Teamster Victor Emeric concludes:  "Hoffa lied to members about raising our dues and cutting pensions.  Now he’s lying about Tom Leedham.  Fortunately, the truth is out.  Hoffa’s negative attacks have worn thin in my local.  We’re voting Tom Leedham."

Can’t you just feel the love?

The Hoffa-istas countered with some pretty tough language of their own.  On Page 56 the pro-Hoffa headline proclaims: "Tom Leedham Is A Front Man For Anti-Teamster Groups."  According to the Hoffa campaign, Leedham and his followers "are being bankrolled by a union busting lawyer" and are "also backed by corporate foundations who own stock in non-union companies like Wal-Mart."

What?  Wal-Mart?  Heaven forefend!!  Bring me the head of Tom Leedham!

Seriously, though, Hoffa’s name, organization and money should easily win him another term as the Boss of Union Bosses over at the Teamsters once the ballots are counted on November 14.  But any notion of "solidarity" in the ever-weakening union movement, as witnessed in this campaign, will continue to prove elusive.  Which is a good thing for those of us who still support the radical notions of limited government and a free market economy.

Written By

Mr. Muth is president of Citizen Outreach, a non-profit public policy advocacy organization in Washington, D.C. The views expressed are his own and do not necessarily reflect the views of Citizen Outreach.

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