October’s election in the International Brotherhood of Teamsters pits the establishment against the insurgents. Members will decide whether they want to dump President James P. Hoffa in favor of reformer Fred Zuckerman. Two groups—Teamsters for a Democratic Union and a collection of anti-Hoffa local officers—who ran separate campaigns five years ago, are united this time. Members may be ready for a change. At issue: concessionary contracts, lack of organizing in core Teamster industries, and looming pension cuts. At the union’s June convention, the reform Teamsters United slate got enough delegate votes (above) to put national and regional candidates on the ballot.
James P. Hoffa, son of the legendary Jimmy Hoffa, has the loyalty of the great majority of national and local officials, many of whom get high salaries while negotiating contract concessions for their members. The union has forty-seven officers who make more than $200,000.
(l) Fred Zuckerman is president of Teamsters Local 89 in Louisville, Kentucky, representing workers at the huge UPS air hub. He led the “Vote No” movement in 2013 when Hoffa negotiated a concessionary contract at UPS, despite the company’s $4.4 billion profit that year. (r) Dramatic cuts of 50 percent or more in pensions announced for Teamsters in the Central States Pension Fund led to widespread protests. In 2008, Hoffa allowed UPS, the largest Teamster employer, to leave the fund, dramatically reducing its annual income. Lack of organizing in traditional Teamster jurisdictions has compounded the problem.
The 1.3 million Teamsters who are eligible to vote are a diverse lot, from people in traditional Teamster occupations like the car-hauler at Fiat Chrysler’s Jefferson North Assembly Plant in Detroit (left), to the waitress at the Quadrangle Club, a private club at the University of Chicago. Traditional Teamster jobs have declined dramatically due to deregulation in the freight industry and the partial deunionization of members who transport cars. Yet those Teamsters are the most involved in the union, and easier for reformers to reach than the thousands in small shops around the country.