Friday, April 3, 2015


Tim Sylvester has started on the long climb to winning the presidency of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters in 2016 by setting out to build a coalition called Teamsters United!
The coalition will combine those who supported the late Ron Carey, those disenchanted with the leadership of incumbent James P. Hoffa, and an untold number of the million plus Teamsters who didn't vote in the union’s 2011 election.
Sylvester is the president of New York Teamsters Local 804, the same militant local of mostly UPS workers that Carey headed and was his base in his successful run in 1991 to become the first IBT president elected by the rank and file.
Among those aligning themselves with Sylvester in Teamsters United are Fred Zuckerman, president of Louisville Local 89, and Tony Jones, president of Columbus Local 413. Zuckerman and Jones were vice presidential candidates on the anti-Hoffa ‘Fighting for the Members Slate’ in the 2011 election.
With less than 20 per cent of the membership voting in the 2011 election, Hoffa tallied an unimpressive 137,164 votes, although that was more than enough to defeat his two opponents: Fred Gegare (54,117) and Sandy Pope (39,251).
Sylvester’s challenge will be to somehow draw between 150,000 and 200,000 votes from that pool of more than a million Teamsters who either didn’t vote or who voted against Hoffa in 2011.
What has Sylvester got going for him:
--Experience in defeating an incumbent. In 2009, Sylvester ousted the Hoffa-allied president of Local 804. That was a feat equivalent to beating an incumbent Senator; it can be done, but not easily.
--The big, burly, bearded Sylvester not only looks like the movie version of a Teamster, he comes from the rank and file. Hoffa, who was a lawyer with Teamsters locals among his clients, ran for his first union office in 1996. In that election he failed to defeat the incumbent IBT president, Ron Carey. For the few who don’t know, the reason Hoffa was selected by the neo-old guard as their candidate was because he happened to be born the son of the legendary Jimmy Hoffa.
--Sylvester has developed a national reputation for his accomplishments as the head of Local 804, which reputedly has the best contract covering UPS workers among the nation's many Teamsters locals. In an age of givebacks, Sylvester won a $400 a month increase in pension benefits in the last round of negotiations, enabling a Local 804 member to retire after 25 years with a pension of $4,000 a month.
--Sylvester formally announced his candidacy on March 14, 2015—and has been holding meetings across the country to add local officers and rank and file adherents to Teamsters United coalition.  He already has been to Worcester, Mass., Los Angeles, Cleveland, Louisville, and Columbus. He will be in Chicago on Saturday, April 11.
--Sylvester presumably will have the backing of Teamsters for a Democratic Union, the rank and file reform party, with its national network of rank and file activists and local union officials.
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