UPS Boss rats out Hoffa
“UPS … is enjoying a love-fest with Hoffa.” So concludes a reporter after interviewing Thomas Weidermeyer, boss of UPS’s air division, for Traffic WORLD (May 1), a mouthpiece for the trucking industry.
That’s no scoop. But the reporter provides evidence right from the horse’s mouth that the days of confrontation and aggravation at UPS are over. “We are in a period of understanding and cooperation,” says Weidermeyer. “The internal things-grievances, settlements of disputes-have all gone well.”
As the reporter correctly observes, “That is just about as close as any labor negotiator says to ‘I love you.’ Of course, when grievances go well for the boss, workers have a very different slant-frequently a four-letter slant-on the outcome.
But love aside, “Jim Hoffa understands business,” says Weidermeyer. “He understands a very basic tenet of labor. If you want more members, you’ve got to want to help make companies grow.” Clearly that means that ‘Jim Hoffa’ won’t harm the goose that lay the golden eggs, a basic tenet of business unionism.
In other words, ‘Jim Hoffa’ is expected to help the UPS bosses beat up on their competition (too bad for the competitors’ workers, unionized or not!) so that the UPS bosses stay increasingly profitable. And ‘Jim Hoffa’ is doing as he’s expected to do.
Here’s a case in point: Weidermeyer complains, “Our biggest competition is a government agency. When they make a profit, they don’t have to pay taxes.”
So now ‘Jim Hoffa’ is urging the rank and file to demand that Congress end the post office’s ‘competitive advantage,’ which “artificially impedes job growth in the private sector industries specializing in package delivery … [for] if the Postal Service is permitted to continue to use profits from its government-granted, first-class mail monopoly to subsidize the price it charges for other delivery services, then our Teamster jobs at UPS are in jeopardy.”
During Hoffa’s election campaign, he stressed the necessity of building the union’s power by adding to the union’s treasury. So if the UPS boss feels that the firm has the upper hand with Hoffa, who can blame him?
“In the last decade,” asserts Weidermeyer, “all the growth in the Teamsters has been with UPS. Take UPS out and the Teamsters are a shrinking organization. We have a cooperative effort [with the union] going on there.”
In August 1997, then Teamsters President Ron Carey led 200,000 UPS strikers, who shut down UPS for the first time in 93 years. The strike received widespread public support, recalling for some the public’s support for the post-World War II strike wave.
The strike’s effects are still felt today, as UPS unwillingly must create 10,000 new full-time jobs. “[I]t was the Carey-engineered strike” says the reporter, ” that caused UPS to sign onto such a pledge.”
It’s no wonder then that “United Parcel Service, the nation’s largest transportation company feels it has taken part in one of the great trades of all time in labor: James P. ‘Jimmy’ Hoffa for Ron Carey as president of the Teamsters union.”
Hoffa’s allies face embezzlement charges
Only a few years ago, Teamsters President James P. Hoffa was a minor lawyer for some Teamster unions in and around Detroit. Then Larry Brennan, a veteran Teamster official, who like a number of Teamster bureaucrats seemed to inherit his union post from his father, hired Hoffa to be his “administrative assistant.”
He signed Hoffa up as a dues-paying member, and in enough time for Hoffa to become eligible to run against then IBT President Ron Carey. Now Brennan, Hoffa’s benefactor, and some say his mentor, has been charged by court-appointed monitors with committing embezzlement.
More than that, the monitors have instructed Hoffa to hold hearings on the charges. If he fails to do so, or if the monitors are dissatisfied with the outcome, they’ll hold their own hearings. In any case, if Brennan is found guilty, past practice indicates he’ll be ousted from the union for life.
Along with Brennan, five other officers of Brennan’s local union have been charged as part of the alleged stealing. It’s not clear why Hoffa’s executive assistant at the international union’s headquarters, who was named as a key person in the scheme, was not charged.
“Incredibly, the bagman in this sordid scheme to take dues money and use it to buy an election is now the highest appointed person in the Teamsters union,” said TDU leader Ken Paff, in a prepared statement. If the charges stand up, Hoffa is bound to lose votes in next year’s election. In any case, Hoffa’s opponents are certain to make sure the ranks are fully informed. -C.W.
Hoffa urges Nader on; Nurses union endorses him
In June Teamsters President told the press that “no one in the political arena speaks stronger on the issues important to American working families than Ralph Nader,” Green Party presidential candidate. The union president did not endorse Nader; nor did he say that the union would endorse him. However Hoffa did call for Nader and Pat Buchanan, the arch-rightist demagogue, to be included with Al Gore and George W. Bush in the presidential debates.
During April’s Washington, D.C., anti-China trade actions, Hoffa shared the Teamsters platform with Buchanan, whose racist speech drew fire from some labor and liberal quarters.
Some observers say that Hoffa and Auto Workers union president Stephen Yokich are just using Nader to get concessions from the Democrats. If so, the reputedly “moralistic” Nader hasn’t objected to their ploy.
According to the Washington Post (June 22), “Two major unions, the United Auto Workers and the Teamsters, are using the third-party presidential bid of Ralph Nader, an outspoken critic of administration trade policies, to pressure Vice President Gore to take tougher stands on trade or face the possibility of a divided labor movement on Election Day.”
Also in June, the California Nurses Association (CNA) declared its support for Nader. The union, numbering 31,000 members, “praised Nader as committed to universal health care, patients’ rights and expanded federal health insurance for Americans” (Associated Press, June 14).
The nurses union is a founding member of the Labor Party (LP), and some of its officers are also LP leaders. The LP has popularized the slogan, “The bosses have two parties, workers need one.” In other words, workers should have no political confidence in the Democrats and the Republicans and should independently organize politically in defense of their own social interests.
However, the same news account of the endorsement indicates that Nader has compromised the union’s leaders’ declared support for workers’ political independence from the bosses’ parties:
“Nader argued his campaign could mobilize voters to help Democrats regain control of the House of Representatives, where Republicans only have a six-seat edge. ‘Since there are very few Green Party candidates running for the House or for the Senate, the millions of votes that we’re going to get … will more likely vote for the Democratic candidates for the House and Senate and in that respect help the Democrats gain control of the Congress,’ he said.”
Obviously, Nader has no reservations about helping Democrats continue the bipartisan rip-off of workers’ muscle and sweat and, during wartime, blood.
So far, the nurses union is the only the union endorsing Nader. It seems safe to predict however, that there will be other unions, and individual union officials who will join the Labor for Nader effort-and on election day, vote for Nader, and what the hell, while they’re at it, vote for some of the traditional bosses’ candidates too. -C.W.