Hoffa: After 23 Years, Teamsters Are In A Better Position
By Teamsters General President Jim Hoffa
Serving the members has been fulfilling beyond what I could have dreamed when my fellow brothers and sisters first elected me in 1998. I am forever grateful for being given the opportunity to follow in my father’s footsteps as Teamster president.
When I took over the reins in 1999, the union faced tremendous obstacles – empty financial coffers, dwindling organizing power, reduced political power, no strike fund and federal oversight. But we took the bull by the horns and enacted changes that rebuilt our union and are leaving it in a much stronger position than when we got here.
Building the union’s strike fund was essential to standing up to companies and ensuring strong contracts. Aligning with established unions like the Brotherhood of Locomotive Trainmen, the Brotherhood of Maintenance of Way Employes and the Graphic Communications International Union grew union power. And bringing the 1989 federal consent decree involving the Teamsters to a close showed the world the union had its house in order.
Members have benefitted from the union’s increased strength. Wages, health care and retirement security has improved across the board. When I took the helm at the Teamsters, for example, the top hourly rate for a UPS package-car driver was $21.33. Today, that has nearly doubled to $40.85 an hour.
Teamster freight truck driving jobs, meanwhile, continue to be the best in the industry thanks to the package of benefits available. The union also stepped up when needed to assist drivers, including the negotiation of a plan that saved tens of thousands of YRC jobs in 2020.
The union also flexed its muscle on the policy and political front as well. Beginning with the “Battle in Seattle” soon after I became president, we let elected officials know the Teamsters wouldn’t accept unfair trade deals unless it was fair to workers. That fight culminated with the scrapping of NAFTA and enactment of the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement that put the concerns of everyday people at the forefront of the trade pact.
And after a decade of fighting to protect our Teamster pensions, Teamsters rose up and got involved in the 2020 election, ultimately propelling Joe Biden into the White House and a pro-worker majority into both the House and Senate. That, in turn, led to the passage of legislation that saved the retirement of more than 1 million U.S. workers and retirees who were depending on those dollars to get them through their golden years. It was an enormous triumph that will have long-lasting benefits for many in Michigan and across the country.
There is so much more that we have accomplished and so many members and leaders who played significant roles. But in the end, this is not about any words written in a column – it is about the Teamster family. Those bonds are such a huge part of me. And as I retire from my current duties, I am confident this union is on solid ground as it starts its next chapter. So now and forever, stay Teamster Strong!IBT Leadership Transition: O’Brien, Zukerman, Executive Board, Begin 5-Year Term
Mar. 22, 2022 | Sean M. O’Brien was sworn in today as the new General President of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters. General Secretary-Treasurer Fred Zuckerman and the newly-elected General Executive Board also took the oath of office. Following a swearing-in ceremony, O’Brien and his team went straight to work, holding their first board meeting to discuss the priorities of the new administration.
“We have a lot of work ahead of us, but our team is tested and ready to lead this great International into the future. It’s a new day for the Teamsters Union,” O’Brien said. “Under this administration, we will be a bigger, faster, stronger union.”
A fourth-generation Teamster from Boston, O’Brien will bring a more militant, grassroots approach to taking on employers and will prioritize mobilizing rank-and-file members to get involved in the union.
“By uniting Teamsters across the country, we will be a force to be reckoned with when it comes to organizing workers, negotiating strong contracts and fighting back against those who seek to take away our hard-won rights,” said Zuckerman of Louisville, Ky. “We are ready to get to work.”
The O’Brien-Zuckerman Teamsters United Slate was elected by the membership on Nov. 19, 2021, by an overwhelming 2-1 margin. The election was certified on Dec. 7 by the union’s Election Administrator. The union is already preparing for negotiations and a member-driven contract campaign at United Parcel Service (UPS). The current, five-year agreement expires on July 31, 2023. The national contract covers more than 350,000 Teamsters at the company—the largest private collective bargaining agreement in the country.
An inauguration celebration open to all members will take place this summer at Teamsters headquarters in Washington, D.C.