Could Hoffa Be Bounced As Teamsters President In Upcoming Election?
Teamsters President Jimmy Hoffa Jr. is facing a re-election fight from Green Bay labor union leader Fred Gegare who was once a Hoffa supporter as well as from Sandy Pope, a onetime truck driver who has turned political dynamo. Ballots are scheduled to be mailed to Teamsters members this Thursday, with the antiquated voting process that lasts longer than those in Iraq…… a month.
Gegare joined the Teamsters in 1972, is president of Wisconsin Joint Council 39 and heads the Teamsters dairy and food processing industry divisions. Sandy Pope is attempting to become the first female leader in the union’s 108-year history.
Hoffa told the Associated Press this summer that he has little to worry about in the election because ”his followers are numerous and his record is unrivaled.” Really?
Still, the Teamsters have grown their assets by nearly $100 million to $197 million during the past decade, even as its membership declined by roughly 75,000 dues-paying members. Casino investments must be doing well.
Hoffa may have weakened the Teamsters. In 2007 he did a deal with UPS allowing 12,000 drivers to join the union. The deal grew the union without securing traditional benefits for the new members. Under the deal, UPS withdrew from a multi-employer pension plan for 42,000 Teamsters members and shifted its workers to a new plan run by the company and the union. The move reduced the assets of the pension plan by 40%, and it encouraged other employers to seek individual pension plans weakening the union.
Pope and Gegare have also made hay claiming that Hoffa is an elitist whose $368,000 salary and white-collar background as a labor lawyer do not make him the most ineffective voice for the union’s workers. There are claims that Hoffa has non-Teamsters calling the shots, and that there are too many consultants aligned with the organization.
Gegare has said he would fire the union’s grievance-panel members and replace them with members who are more in touch with blue-collar workers. He also would put more emphasis on organizing industries such as transportation, which has been a mainstay of the Teamsters for decades.
Pope says she would get more members involved in contract bargaining committees at a national level.
Hoffa has said that aggressively negotiating new benefits is unrealistic when workers fear unemployment and won’t strike. Still, the Teamsters held their own during the recession when other unions took major hits to their membership. Hoffa claims to have organized some 140,000 over the past three years while his overall membership has certainly decline over the last decade.
Many claim that Pope, who heads a New York City local, is a stronger candidate than Gegare. She won 100,000 votes as the 2006 candidate for Teamsters secretary-treasurer. But it will be tough to defeat to defeat Hoffa as he does get a lot of name recognition and is well-connected politically. It will be an uphill battle for Pope and Gegare. Be nice if some of the media helped out a bit.