Presidential Debate Drives Teamster Action to Influence Election


The Teamsters continued its drive to getting 2020 presidential candidates focused on the needs of workers this week by having General President Jim Hoffa attend a Democratic Party debate and by holding separate events in South Carolina and New Hampshire where the union gathered insights on what issues matter most to its membership.

Hoffa attended Wednesday night’s debate in Detroit in hopes of hearing from candidates where they stand on issues that matter most to Teamsters. And although several shared their thoughts on important issues such as trade and health care, there was a deafening silence when it came to an essential matter for this union – pensions.

As Hoffa said on Fox Business’ “Mornings with Maria” show, “what are we going to do about retirement security, those who worked hard and played by the rules? Those are the type of kitchen table issues I would like to see these debates focused on, and I’m not hearing that.”

The Teamsters have led the charge in the fight to beef up multiemployer pension plans, and saw those efforts rewarded last week when the House voted to approve H.R. 397, the Rehabilitation for Multiemployer Pensions Act, that would protect the solvency of multiemployer pensions and bring retirement security to some 1.5 million Americans whose nest eggs are currently threatened.

But with Senate approval still needed to ensure enactment of the legislation, workers and retirees are looking for candidates who will prioritize pension reform so they can have more certainty about finances in their golden years.

Meanwhile, Teamster members throughout the country were gathering together and tuning in to see if the candidates would address issues important to workers.

 In Charleston, S.C., Local 509 members gathered for a member appreciation event held by the local union to discuss issues that matter to working people in the lead up to the 2020 election. Speakers at the event—held just hours before the start of the first night of the second Democratic debate—included elected officials and community leaders.

Local 509 members will be some of the first voters to hit the ballot box in the presidential primary. They said they want to see candidates focus on a number of key issues for American workers, including retirement security, health care and infrastructure.

“We’re here because it’s so important to get involved, especially in 2020 when we need to elect labor-friendly politicians. There’s no doubt that our elected leaders in 2020 will decide the direction of our state and our country for a long time,” said James Todd, President of Local 509.

Evelena Moultrie, a Durham School Services school bus driver, was one of a number of Local 509 members in attendance.

“The biggest reason we are here to is to hear from our local elected leaders, and get a survey completed by everyone in regard to what they’re looking for in candidates who are running in 2020,” Moultrie said. “It’s important to me that the presidential candidates focus on health care, Social Security and infrastructure.”

And Local 633 members gathered together in Dover, N.H. for a debate watch party on the second night of the debate. Teamsters in New Hampshire are actively engaging fellow members to identify key issues and raising them with the many candidates that are making their way through the state in advance of the 2020 primary, scheduled for Feb. 11.

“Presidential contenders need to speak to the concerns of Teamsters and other workers who play by the rules and only want to continue to be able to support their families,” said Rick Laughton, a Local 633 business agent. “That means being treated with respect on the job and having a secure retirement.”