This story appears in the July 18 print edition of Transport Topics.
The stage is set for the fall Teamsters union election, with incumbent James Hoffa campaigning for a five-year term and insurgent Fred Zuckerman, current president of a Kentucky local, seeking to unseat Hoffa after three terms.
Both candidates kicked off their campaigns after they were formally nominated at the union’s convention that ended earlier this month in Las Vegas. The candidates can appear before union members at a series of forums beginning in mid-August and stretching through late September before ballots are distributed in October and counted in November.
At stake is control of a union that represents hundreds of thousands of workers at UPS Inc. as well as less-than-truckload fleets and car haulers. The union also has campaigned to build membership among port truckers through picketing, legislative and administrative actions, seeking to convert independent contractor drivers into employees so that they can become union members.
The Teamsters union also has been trying to organize two of the three largest LTL truckers — FedEx Freight and XPO Logistics. Those efforts have met with limited success to date.
Hoffa, son of legendary Teamsters leader Jimmy Hoffa, came to power in 1999 after former President Ron Carey was ousted amid corruption charges. Hoffa received 59% of the vote in the 2011 election.
“The Hoffa-Hall Slate is comprised of 27 battle-tested Teamsters leaders who have the experience, commitment and passion to move our union forward for the next five years,” the incumbents, including Secretary-Treasurer Ken Hall, told Transport Topics. “Their goal is to continue growing the Teamsters through aggressive organizing of new workers across North America as well as negotiating some of the strongest contracts for union workers.
“We will continue to fight at the bargaining table and in the halls of Congress and state legislatures for our members,” the Hoffa-Hall campaign said, citing the addition of 300,000 port workers, drivers in other industries and corrections officers.
“For 17 years, Hoffa has managed the decline of the Teamsters union and given concessions to the big employers,” Zuckerman told TT. “We will make Hoffa answer for his failed record. He can’t hide behind his father’s famous name anymore.”
The Zuckerman ticket’s key issues are contract concessions, pension cuts and corruption.
“Hoffa has given up concessions in every national contract,” Zuckerman said, noting membership votes to reject negotiated tentative agreements for UPS, freight and car-haul contracts.
The challenger linked corruption with concessions. “Hoffa’s running mate, Rome Aloise [a union vice president], is charged with taking payoffs and soliciting favors from employers during contract negotiations,” Zuckerman said.
The incumbents noted the 1989 consent decree that was agreed to with the Justice Department to monitor corruption issues has been lifted.
“The [International Brotherhood of Teamsters] led the fight to have the Treasury Department reject planned pension cuts to retirees at the Central States Pension Fund and are leading the legislative effort to fix the problems long term,” the Hoffa-Hall team said.
In the pension area, Zuckerman blamed Hoffa for the Central States Pension Fund crisis that could lead to benefits cuts for 400,000 active and retired Teamsters. He said Hoffa shouldn’t have let UPS abandon that pension fund in 2007 through a buyout.
The incumbents also said the opposition failed to nominate candidates for six positions, leading to the unanimous election of six vice presidents.
Zuckerman has led Local 89 since 2000, served for about six years as the top car-haul negotiator and is a former union vice president.
“I have a proven record of winning strong contracts, protecting Teamsters jobs and defeating concessions and benefit cuts as the president of the fourth-largest local in the Teamsters,” Zuckerman said, citing steps his local took to protect jobs and wages during local labor disputes with grocery giant Kroger Co. and Ford Motor Co.
His local was one of two in the country that twice rejected the contract negotiated with UPS Inc. in 2013. About two-thirds of Local 89 members work for UPS, mostly at its Worldport air hub in Louisville, Kentucky.