Teamsters’ leader James Hoffa junior tells 27th Teamsters Convention
‘Welcome to the 27th International Teamsters Convention. It is an honor to address you as your General President.
Since we met here five years ago we’ve made history. We’ve changed our Union and we’ve changed the American Labor Movement. While others have faltered, we have gained.
We are the Teamsters. We have the best wages. We have the best health care. We have the best pensions. We have the best contracts in the land.
But what do your neighbors have? Do they have a good health care plan? Do they have a pension? Are they working 2 or 3 jobs just to make ends meet?
We all know people like that. Low wage jobs at Wal-Mart and McDonalds. No job protections. No representation.
Who’s fighting for them? Who’s trying to get them health insurance? Who’s trying to lift them up?
It’s the Teamsters, fighting for working families.
Are politicians fighting for working families? No.
Is the Chamber of Commerce going to fight for working families?
Is the National Right-to-Work Committee going fight for you? Hell no.
Look around, fellow delegates, we are it! We’re the ones fighting for working people! Fighting corporate greed. Fighting for decent wages. Fighting for retirement security. Fighting for health care. Fighting for fair trade and job security.
Today, Corporate America is on the attack as never before. Corporate greed is everywhere… NAFTA, CAFTA, sending American jobs overseas. Cutting health care and pensions. Busting unions and destroying families. It’s time to sound the alarm!
It’s time to say “Wake up America!”
We are paying $3 for gas. Are we supposed to be surprised – when you have 2 oil men in the White House.
And while we are paying through the nose, Exxon’s CEO got $400 million dollars when he retired. That’s not Exxon’s money! That’s OUR money!
Enough is enough!
I’m proud to say the Teamsters Union is standing up for all America. Ten years ago, we weren’t. Our Union had nothing in the bank. Our Strike Fund was busted. We were being destroyed from within. We were a Union hopelessly divided – brother against brother, sister against sister, local union against local union, even joint council against joint council.
Today, we are united, strong and on the move. Today we have a strong strike fund. Today, we have the resources to run large scale organizing campaigns against global employers. Today we have 100 million dollars in the bank.
In 2002, elected delegates from every local union put this union’s financial house in order. That’s when our Special Convention restructured our dues with an eye to the future. But one man made the difference. And he continues to work with me to move this Union forward. My partner, the greatest Secretary-Treasurer this Union has ever had, Tom Keegel.
Thanks to Tom Keegel we have a strong Strike Fund! Thanks to Tom Keegel, our financial house is in order!
Other unions have seen our progress and they have joined us. Proud unions like the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers – are you in the house? The Brotherhood of Maintenance of Way – are you in the house? And the Graphic Communications Conference – are you in the house? Let’s give them all a big Teamster welcome. We are proud to call you our brothers and sisters! 130,000 new Teamsters!
Today, we are poised to grow as never before. Our goal is wall-to-wall representation of transport workers from the ports to the rails to the roads to the air.
When my father was under attack in the 60s, they said he was the most powerful man in America. You’re damn right. Now it’s time for The Teamsters to be the most powerful Union in America!
Anything that moves on the rail, the road or in the air should be moved by the Teamsters! We must organize the entire supply chain. Our new brothers and sisters in the rail division represent a link in that chain. Port drivers are a link in that chain. Airline pilots and ground workers are a link in that chain. Our members in freight, UPS and DHL are links in the chain.
But the most important links in the chain are our Local Unions and Joint Councils. Our Union is built on the bedrock of local union autonomy. Our Constitution spells it out and our foundation is based on it. That’s where we get our strength.
Today, we have formed a new partnership between the International, the joint councils and the local unions. And that’s true in Chicago – Is there anybody from Chicago in the house? Joint Council 25 has rededicated itself to organizing and is adding thousands of new members.
Where are the brothers and sisters from Joint Council 42? They are organizing workers and winning the battles throughout the West.
Is there anybody from New York in the House? The State of New York has a new Unity. Together they are fighting night and day for working families.
Where is the Ohio conference? Are they in the house? They are organizing DHL.
And what about Canada, the fastest growing region in the union, do we have anybody from Canada in the house?
These Teamsters, along with thousands of others across North America, have dedicated themselves to organizing and growing our union’s bargaining power.
It’s what we all must do.
We are coordinating on every level of the union to take on regional, national and global employers. As more Locals and Joint Councils grow, our organizing strength grows too.
We left the AFL-CIO because we wanted to organize, and we’re doing just that. We created the Change to Win Federation with more than six million workers. We are organizing the ports, Cintas and school bus drivers. And right here in Las Vegas, we are organizing casino workers.
We are building power in our core industries. Small package and freight – UPS, DHL and FedEx. And we are organizing the solid waste industry.
We are running strategic campaigns to win neutrality and card-check recognition.
But the biggest asset we have when it comes to organizing is that we are Teamsters!
That’s why 1,200 Nashville cops joined the Teamsters. That’s why 3,200 customer service reps at America West joined the Teamsters. That’s why 1,000 Highline school workers in Washington State joined the Teamsters. That’s why DHL, First Student and BFI workers joined the Teamsters. They’ve joined the Teamsters because we give them hope… and we will keep hope alive.
In the labor movement, we say an injury to one is an injury to all. When you pick a fight with one Teamster, you pick a fight with all Teamsters.
And you’ve probably heard, that UPS just bought Overnite and renamed it UPS Freight. UPS is a Teamster company and I pledge to you that Overnite will be a Teamster company. They will be Teamsters.
We cannot change the course of America if we don’t grow. We must grow if we are going to make health care a right and not a privilege. We must grow if we are going to make retirement security a right and not a privilege. We must grow if we are going to close the gap between the rich and the rest of us.
The only way to make things better is through organizing.
That’s what the Teamsters understand.
We know how to organize. We know how to fight.
We want to focus on the workers, not politicians.
No amount of money thrown at politicians will help workers if the labor movement continues to decline. When our forefathers built this union they didn’t ask the politicians to build it for them. They went to the workers. They organized. They fought and they won.
They forced the politicians to listen!
We didn’t leave the AFL to weaken the labor movement. We left to make it stronger.
Today, we are fighting many battles. Who has kept unsafe Mexican trucks off our highways? The Teamsters! It’s the Teamsters who will keep the borders closed until Mexico meets its end of the bargain. They must raise their standards. We couldn’t do this if we were weak. We couldn’t lead these fights if we were divided.
Thank God we are strong.
Strong enough to win a $10 Billion Dollar contract at UPS. Strong enough to win the hammer back in freight. Strong enough to get health care and pension for Costco employees, while Wal-Mart employees have nothing. Strong enough to get the best contract for brewery workers at Anheuser-Busch.
Today, we are respected once again. Today, we show our strength. Today, we show our pride. Today, we show our solidarity.
That’s what this convention’s about. . .
We must build a lean, mean, organizing machine. We must set our sights on a bigger and stronger Teamsters Union. We must grow to 2 million, 3 million, 4 million members to achieve more for working families.
Today, we are taking on large employers and whole industries. We are organizing the entire supply chain.
Today, through our partnerships, Joint Councils and Local Unions are organizing as never before.
I was raised in a Teamster home. I was raised believing that the Teamsters were the greatest union on Earth. That’s still true today.
In 2001, this body made history. We enacted the democracy package, which means “one member, one vote”. We are the most democratic union in the world. And our union is only as strong as its members.
And you know better than anyone that we have the greatest members in the labor movement. We see them every day, driving trucks and forklifts, working in offices, schools and hospitals, doing extraordinary things like rebuilding Ground Zero after 9/11, helping our members after Hurricane Katrina. But the real heroes are our members, who go to work everyday.
I am proud of our members.
They are Teamster power. .
God bless the Teamsters!’