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Teamsters rejecting Hoffa machine in 2021 convention delegate elections

By Zachary Schultz

Sean O'Brien speaking to the striking Local 202 workers with at Hunts Points Mar

Chicago, IL – Hundreds of Teamster locals are electing delegates to attend the 30th International Convention this June in the leadup to union-wide elections in the fall. The Hoffa-led executive board cancelled the planned convention in Las Vegas, citing COVID-19 restrictions, however delegates will still be meeting via Zoom to nominate candidates and amend the IBT (International Brotherhood of Teamsters) constitution.

This will be the last convention led by James P. Hoffa, marking an end to an over 20-year reign as general president that was marked by the consistent opposition of rank-and-file movements. After a close election in 2016 and anger over the imposed 2018 UPS contract, Hoffa announced his retirement early last year, tapping Steve Vairma and Ron Herrera to run the successor Teamster Power slate. However, the growing rank-and-file movement has fueled the Teamsters United slate led by Sean O’Brien and Fred Zuckerman, which poses the greatest challenge ever faced by the Hoffa machine.

“The anti-Hoffa forces look like they will represent, for the first time ever, a majority of delegates to the International Convention. COVID-19 is the reason that the convention has gone digital, but I'm sure that Hoffa's cronies were happy to have an excuse for him to avoid witnessing a sea of opposition,” said Sean Orr, a steward at UPS and recently elected alternate delegate from Local 705. “The unstoppable momentum of the Teamsters United campaign is the product of nothing else than the Teamster rank and file, who are ready for a fight and expecting the same from their leadership.”

For the first time in recent memory, Chicago’s Local 705, home of UPS’s largest ground hub, unanimously elected their delegate slate led by Juan Campos, 705’s principal officer and a candidate for at-large vice president with the Teamsters United Slate.

While voting will continue for the next two months, a swell of Teamsters United delegates have already been unanimously elected, including in Local 251, led by longtime reformer Matt Taibi. Local 202, where the principal officer is the formerly-Hoffa-aligned Dane Kane Jr., is also sending Teamster United delegates. Local 202 had a victorious strike against Hunts Point Market last week.

The convention will also face a battle over amendments to the Teamster constitution. A key issue will be the removal of the “two-thirds rule,” which allowed the IBT to impose the 2018 National UPS Contract despite a 54% “no” vote. In addition, delegates are expected to clash over efforts by the Hoffa-backed Teamster Power slate to limit rank-and-file participation and transparency during contract negotiations.

“We are tired of union officials that keep the members locked out of negotiations and force through contracts against our will. Rank-and-file Teamsters have been fighting for years to finally take down Hoffa’s machine. We’ll be better off once we get rid of the two-thirds rule and win better contracts,” said Fernando Figueroa, a UPS Teamster in Jacksonville supporting the 512 Teamsters United delegate slate. After a contested local election in December, rank-and-file Teamsters in Local 512 will be running to challenge 512’s old guard to support Teamsters United at the convention.

Delegate elections will wrap up by the end of April, and a constitution committee will be appointed by Hoffa to handle all proposed amendments and resolutions for the convention.

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