(LAS VEGAS) – Mansour Osanloo, President of the Tehran Bus Workers’ Union, was honored today by delegates to the 28th International Brotherhood of Teamsters Convention, who unanimously approved a resolution making him an honorary member of the Teamsters Union.
Osanloo was sentenced to five years in prison in July 2007 after being dragged from a Tehran bus by Iranian security forces. He was charged with “acting against national security” and “propaganda against the state” because he helped found a democratic trade union for bus drivers in Tehran. The Teamsters awarded him honorary membership “in recognition of his struggle for freedom of association.”
“Their struggle is our struggle,” stated the resolution. “The Teamsters will work with unions worldwide to warn all investors, especially those investing workers’ capital, of the grave risks of investments in Iran and Iranian controlled enterprises due to the disrespect of basic worker rights and the rule of law in Iran,” the resolution further stated.
“Mansour Osanloo is an example of courage and strength,” said General President Jim Hoffa. “But the struggle continues. The union is still not allowed to function there and other union leaders are still jailed.”
The challenge of organizing in the face of resistance by anti-union political regimes and by powerful multinationals was the focus of the second day of the Convention.
Debate over the resolution on Global Solidarity and Strategies made it clear that Teamsters understand the dangers of globalization for workers. They described attacks on workers by U.S. companies overseas and by multinational companies in the U.S. before approving a resolution that said, in part, “the future of working people and the future of our great Union depends on our ability to organize the unorganized and to build alliances with workers throughout the world.”
Ruben Torres, Secretary-Treasurer of Local 237 in New York, said the war on workers is being waged overseas and in South America. “The war is a matter of life and death,” he said, after describing the peril faced by union leaders in Colombia.
General Secretary-Treasurer Tom Keegel reported that the Teamsters Union is in strong financial shape.
“We established a real Strike and Defense Fund,” Keegel said. “We allocated money for organizing. And it’s paying off. While the financial operations of other unions have been adversely affected during the current economic crisis, we have held our own. We have succeeded in this adverse environment by going on the offensive instead of just playing defense. We have organized 135,000 new members in the last five years.”
Other speakers included Paddy Crumlin, principal officer of the Maritime Union of Australia; Steve Turner, international representative for the U.K. union UNITE; and Mary Kay Henry; and Rep. Steve LaTourette, R-Ohio.
Teamsters discussed how they’re fighting the war on workers by organizing port workers on the East and West Coasts, taxi drivers in Canada, school bus drivers and airline workers all over the country.
Mayor Cory Booker gave a rousing speech about organizing port drivers in his city. “We will transform our ports in Newark,” he said. “We will do it in partnership with the Teamsters. We will do it with a vision of the health of our community.”
Fleet service workers for United Continental will soon decide whether to be members of the Teamsters, which currently represents Continental workers, or of the International Association of Machinists, which represents United workers.
Amanda Kamara, a Continental fleet service worker and member of Local 210 in Newark, said she’s confident the Teamsters will win the election. “I don’t know about you, but every day is a great day to be a Teamster,” she said.
According to the Teamster Constitution, the International Convention, which is held every five years, is the supreme policy-making body of the union with the power and authority to modify the Constitution, establish programs, address fiscal issues and set priorities. This week, delegates will consider a number of constitutional measures and resolutions. Delegates also have the important task of nominating candidates for the International offices of General President, General Secretary-Treasurer, Vice President and Trustees.
Founded in 1903, the International Brotherhood of Teamsters represents more than 1.4 million hard-working men and women in the United States, Canada and Puerto Rico. Go to www.teamster.org for more information.