Thursday, April 30, 2015

Teamsters 2016: The two legged stool and the distant ripple

Incumbent James P. Hoffa is perched on a wobbly two-legged stool in the opening days of the 2016 campaign for the presidency of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters. His ostensible opponent, Teamsters United candidate Tim Sylvester, currently is just a ripple on the horizon of sea of 1.3 million potential Teamster voters.
Hoffa’s two legs are his name (the son of Jimmy Hoffa) and his incumbency (Teamsters president since March, 1999.) Incumbents are always hard to beat. A third leg, some great achievement--fulfilling his promise to resurrect Teamsters Power-- during his 16 years in office, would have all but assured his reelection.
Unfortunately for the union, I am unaware of any notable accomplishment by Hoffa during his reign. A point of comparison would be Teamsters President Ron Carey’s great victory in the 1997 national strike against the United Parcel Service.
The yet to be shaped third leg for the Hoffa stool will be the extent of support he wins from the potential pool of 1.3-million Teamsters eligible to vote in the 2016 election. In 2011, Hoffa only managed to tally 137,164 votes—which were more than enough for him to win reelection. The insignificant turnout is a indicator of the disinterest of the vast majority of the members in the union. 
Of course contesting Hoffa for those 1.3 million voters is Tim Sylvester, president of New York Teamsters Local 804, the local that was Ron Carey’s base of support.
Whether the Sylvester and his United Teamsters coalition ripple turns into a wave that crests and breaks without significant impact or becomes a tsunami to sweep away the Hoffa regime will be revealed after the votes are cast in October, 2016.
In the interim, Sylvester, who is already campaigning hard (his next stop will be in Providence, RI, on Saturday, May 16, 2015) has set out to gather at least 200,000 Teamsters to his banner.
Sylvester announced that that 800 Teamsters listened in to his national conference call in a pitch for campaign volunteers on a recent Sunday. Signposts of how well Teamsters United is doing will be first, the Accreditation Petition Drive this summer to collect the signatures of at least 50,000 members and then the number of delegates to the 2016 convention Teamsters United can win in local elections in the fall of 2015 and the winter of 2016.

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