Hoffa Retains Teamsters Union Presidency — Fewer Concessions Ahead?
James P. Hoffa has received a majority of valid votes cast in the election for General President of the Teamsters Union, according to ibtvote.org, the official website for the Office of the Election Supervisor for the International Brotherhood of Teamsters. The counting of ballots was completed on November 18, 2016, but the results will not be official until certified by the Election Supervisor, Richard W. Mark. If certified, this will be Hoffa’s fourth reelection win. The last election was held in 2011.
The number of challenged ballots (12,280) initially exceeded the winning margin for all offices except that of regional vice presidents. However, after reviewing the challenges, the Office of the Election Supervisor determined that 2,908 of those ballots, less than the winning margin for all offices, should be counted.
Hoffa received almost 6,000 more votes – a surprisingly small margin, according to Bloomberg BNA’s Daily Labor Report – than his opponent, Fred Zuckerman, the head of Teamsters Local 89 in Louisville, Kentucky, who ran on the Teamsters United slate. Teamsters United criticized Hoffa for granting pension and other concessions during collective bargaining. Teamsters members in the United States cast more ballots in favor of Zuckerman, but Canadian Teamsters members favored Hoffa in large enough numbers to secure the apparent victory for him.
In 1989, the Teamsters entered into a consent decree to settle a suit brought by the federal government under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO). The decree required the direct election of International officers by the membership to replace the indirect election by delegates at the union’s convention. This election was held pursuant to the 78-page “Rules for the 2015-2016 IBT International Union Delegate and Officer Election,” created, in part, because of the consent decree.
Six regional vice presidential candidates who ran with Zuckerman on the Teamsters United slate won election. According to Bloomberg BNA’s Daily Labor Report, quoting Ken Paff, national organizer for Teamsters for a Democratic Union, a group of dissident Teamsters dedicated to reforming the Teamsters Union, “Nothing like that’s happened in 18 years.”
The campaign was marked by the filing of a number of “protests” pursuant to the protest procedure set forth in the election rules. Hoffa, for example, filed a pre-election protest alleging a member violated the rules by burning Hoffa 2016 campaign material in a video posted on Facebook. Zuckerman filed a pre-election protest alleging that a Hoffa 2016 campaign flyer was impermissibly posted on a union bulletin board at a company’s facility. Both protests were denied by the Election Appeals Master appointed to rule on it.
Some observers believe that the closeness of the vote could mean less willingness on the part of the Teamsters to grant concessions in collective bargaining. A final result should be announced soon.