Day Three of Teamsters Convention and video stream
Day Three at the Teamsters convention and reform delegates have to fight to get the microphone to debate salary reforms for IBT President - Video Stream of recent Leedham Speech
Reform Delegates Have to Fight to Get to Microphones to Debate Salary Reform
Hoffa broke his campaign promise to cut his own salary
LAS VEGAS, June 27óReform delegates forced a major debate on the floor of the 26th International Teamster Convention, Wednesday, proposing to cap International salaries at $150,000, which was a promise James Hoffa, Jr. made when he ran for President, but then promptly broke after he was elected.
The reformers' motion was introduced by Charles Alexander, a determined Teamster delegate from Seattle, who took the floor of the convention to urge Hoffa live up to his promise, but also blast the Hoffa leadership for blocking reformers from getting to the microphones on the issue.
Alexander's motion, which also called for eliminating multiple salaries paid by the International Union, failed on a voice vote.
Because the composition of the convention delegations in Las Vegas is largely Hoffa-backed officers, rank-and-filers who support Hoffa's opponent, Tom Leedham, are far out-numbered on the floor.
An issue in the fall elections
Alexander's motion is sure to be an issue that Leedham and his Rank & File Power Slate highlight in the upcoming fall elections when they face off against Hoffa. Leedham slate members will point out that despite Hoffa's promise to cut his own salary, he raised it from $150,000 to $226,000, a 50 percent increase, as soon as he took office in 1998.
But reformers still eloquently managed to make the case, Wednesday, for building a membership oriented fighting union, rather than an international in which the primary purpose is to hijack members's dues money so that officers can line their own pockets.
To take the issue of outrageous union salaries to the convention floor, however,
reform delegates first had to get to the mikes. Delegate Joe Fahey complained to the chair, Teamster Secretary-Treasurer Thomas Keegel, that the microphones had been blocked by Hoffa supporters during an earlier point in the proceedings when it would have been appropriate to amend the section of the Teamster constitution under discussion. Keegel ignored Fahey's concern.
Alexander, a bus driver and member of Local 763 took the floor next.
"A bunch of goons have been standing at the mike and keeping us from speaking," charged Alexander, standing at a mike, demanding to introduce his amendment for a section of the constitution that had already been covered.
"You're out of order," Keegel told Alexander from the podium and immediately shut off Alexander's microphone. That action didn't sit well with some delegates.
Keegel's heavy-handed behavior
Speakers were being shown convention proceedings on several giant screens situated throughout the convention hall so Keegel's undemocratic procedures was in full view of everyone. While hard-line Hoffa supporters approved of his heavy-handed behavior, some found the mike shut-offs, which happened several times on Wednesday, appalling.
After conferring with an International Teamster attorney, Keegel decided that he better let Alexander introduce his amendment after all.
Alexander proposed that the salary of the general president be $150,000 a year and the general secretary-treasurer, $125,000 a year. Also in his amendment was a provision that, "No officer or agent of this union or any affiliate should receive a salary or aggregate salaries higher than that provided for the General President" and "no salaried officer or employee of the International Union shall receive an additional salary from another affiliate."
Alexander then spoke to his motion. "When President Hoffa ran for President, he promised to cut and cap salaries, including his own," Alexander said. "It didn't happen."
He said that the International Brotherhood of Teamsters (IBT) has 147 officers on staff, receiving multiple salaries.
"The previous administration didn't raise your pay," Alexander said, his strong voice echoing through the convention hall. His point was aimed at deflecting an argument raised repeatedly from the convention floor this week by Hoffa delegates this week who are blaming all the Teamsters' problems on former President Ron Carey rather than Hoffa's ineptitude and commitment to maintaining and expanding the privileges of the union officials at the expense of the membership.
A record number of multiple salaries
Dan Scott a delegate from Local 174 in Seattle and a Leedham supporter, seconded Alexander's motion and said he had a copy of a leaflet Hoffa issued in 1996, that stated that he planned to cut the salary of the General President to $150,000. Hoffa didn't do it, said Scott, and in fact, there are now 147 staff members making multiple salaries, "more than at any time in the history of the IBT.
Approve Alexander's motion, said Scott. "It's the right thing to do."
Rome Aloise, a Hoffa delegate and International Representative from California, defended the increased salaries, noting that Leedham had once been an International Vice President, adding, "You get what you pay for.
"Money is not the issue," said Aloise. He said Alexander's proposal to cap salaries was a subterfuge. "It's political pandering of the worst kind," he said.
Apparently when Hoffa proposed to cut his own salary and cap salaries in 1996 he wasn't pandering.
Delegate Bill Zimmerman of Teamsters Local 206 in Seattle took the floor to say that when he campaigned against Hoffa in 1996, he met workers outside shop gates, who said they were voting for Hoffa because of his promise to reduce his salary.
"All we're asking you to do is live up to your promise," said Zimmerman.
Hoffa delegates defend inflated salaries for officials
Hoffa supporters got furious. "I oppose this TDU amendment," said one delegate, a reference to Teamsters for a Democratic Union, a rank-and-file organization, that has long opposed salaries that have made some Teamsters officials millionaires. The Hoffa delegate said that the Hoffa administration was composed of officials who deserve salaries ten times that paid to mineworkers, an apparent attack on our brothers and sisters who work in another industry.
The proposal to reduce salaries failed on a voice vote. The Teamsters convention, Wednesday, also raised the daily meal allowance for International Teamsters officials from $50 to $75. They managed to get it passed before reform delegates could find a microphone to protest.
However, supporters of the Tom Leedham slate staged a demonstration outside the convention hall on Wednesday morning, making the point that the convention is betraying the membership by refusing to raise strike benefits from the current $55 a week level, but has still found enough money to raise the meal allowance officials.
(Report filed by Leedham campaign web site: www.leedham.org)
Video stream is of Tom Leedham talking at recent Labor Notes conference on subject of concessions. Video by Tom Sheibley
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