Teamsters Remember Dave Sweeney
Dave Sweeney, who was Director of the Teamsters Legislative and Political Action Department until he retired in 1993, passed away in June.
Sweeney became a Teamster member in 1951 as a part-time employee in Washington state. He worked in canneries and as a laundry and dry cleaning driver. He proudly paid his union dues for more than 50 years after becoming a member.
His first job that involved the International Union started in 1955 when he began working for the Western Conference of Teamsters. Within six months he was placed on the board of his union as a Trustee at his local and about a year later he had been made President of the Central Labor Council.
He became the union’s Political and Legislative Director in 1971.
Involving the Members
“Brother Sweeney’s ability to get people involved in the political process was impressive. He could rally retirees, young people, spouses of Teamsters and anyone else to take a stand on issues concerning working families,” said Jim Hoffa, Teamsters General President. “Even in retirement, he never stopped caring about working people.”
Sweeney was good at getting Teamster retirees involved in the political process.
“In doing a good political operation, a lot of times the retirees are your base,” Sweeney said in a 2011 interview. “They’ve got the time and they will come in and work.”
In 1971, when 18-year-olds were given the right to vote, Sweeney and the Teamsters were the first to try to recruit these young voters into the union and its political action committee, DRIVE. He understood the importance of getting young people involved because he himself was involved in politics from a very young age. His father was active in politics in Washington state and, at age 13, Sweeney was assisting government officials on the floor of the state legislature.
“Part of being a good local union officer is being involved in politics. And you should try to involve your members, their wives, and their kids in the process. And you have to explain to your membership that if they have a good health and welfare program and medical care, that is a result of collective bargaining,” Sweeney said.