Teamsters Endorse Biden-Harris Ticket

2020 Presidential Forum , Cedar Rapids, Iowa, December 7, 2019

Former Vice President, Senator Have Decades-Long Record of Standing with Workers

The International Brotherhood of Teamsters are backing former Vice President Joe Biden for president and Sen. Kamala Harris of California for vice president in 2020, citing their strong record of standing with working families throughout each of their careers. 

The union’s General Executive Board voted unanimously in mid-August to support the candidacy of Biden and Harris. 

Biden has a long history of standing with unions and workers on the job site. As vice president, he helped put rules in place that made it easier to organize and expanded overtime eligibility to millions of additional workers, and he has committed to protecting workers’ hard-earned pensions. 

Harris has advocated for workers as attorney general of California and as senator and offered her own thoughtful pro-worker platform during her run for the presidency. 

Biden, the Democratic Party nominee, has proposed a bold plan to protect the interests of hardworking Americans going forward, one that prioritizes collective bargaining, worker organizing and unions. It calls for workers to be treated with dignity and receive the pay, benefits and workplace protections they deserve. 

“The Teamsters have a friend in Joe Biden,” said Jim Hoffa, Teamsters General President. “From his very first election to the senate until now, Vice President Biden has been on the side of working Americans supporting their right to organize, their desire for fair wages and their need for a secure retirement.” 

The Process 

The Teamsters began in spring 2019 crafting a path forward for highlighting key issues and setting up an endorsement process for the 2020 presidential election. 

The union surveyed Teamster leaders across the country and more than 22,000 rank-and-file members and found out they were most focused on three topics—pension security, collective bargaining and fair trade. 

The union also created an endorsement process that any candidate seeking the union’s backing had to fulfill. 

Presidential contenders were required to sign a Teamsters Pledge that said they would back the union’s stance on pensions, collective bargaining and trade. 

They also had to sit for a video interview where they would speak to the membership about their views on the three issues. 

Finally, candidates were told they had to get involved in at least one pro-labor protest and remain neutral if their campaign staffs chose to organize with a union. 

Specially trained Teamster members spent the late summer and early fall of 2019 going to candidate forums in early primary and swing states and questioning contenders about their views. 

Teamsters Pledge 

Biden and Harris both signed the Teamsters Pledge last year promising to back the union’s priorities. They also both sat down with the Teamsters to discuss their views on the issues. Additionally, Biden participated in the union’s candidate forum held in Cedar Rapids, Iowa last December. 

“I want the support of the Teamsters because we need an incredibly strong labor movement that has to grow in America,” Biden said during his interview. “We need to strengthen unions. It is something I have done my whole career, I think it is critically important and the Teamsters are an incredibly, incredibly important element of organized labor in America.” 

“I want Teamster members and their families to know that I stand with them,” Harris said during her interview. “I want them to know in the America I believe in, no one should have to work more than one job to have a roof over their head or to put food on the table.” 

Both Biden’s and Harris’ national field organizers voted via card check to join Local 238 in Iowa, proving their campaigns were willing not just to talk the talk, but walk the walk. 

Different Views 

By comparison, President Trump and Vice President Pence promised to stand with hardworking Americans, but their actions show otherwise. They did not fulfill any of the requirements put forward by the Teamsters to be considered for the union’s endorsement. 

The Trump administration appointed anti-worker members to the National Labor Relations Board that made it harder to organize and rolled back or watered down key decisions, including the Browning-Ferris joint employer case involving Local 350 Teamsters. 

President Trump also appointed Supreme Court justices who are unfriendly to workers and unions. That led to an affirmative vote in the Janus case that gutted the ability of public sector workers to collectively bargain. 

Meanwhile, Biden spoke to Teamsters at various venues during the presidential primary campaign, including a visit to a First Student school bus yard in Nashua, N.H. in February. There, he discussed with the Local 633 members his own experiences of driving a school bus while a law student at Syracuse University. 

“Joe Biden and Kamala Harris have both had to fight hard to get to where they are today,” Hoffa said. “The Teamsters will be just as determined working for Joe and Kamala this fall because we know they will work for our members in the White House.” 

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Pension Reform Now!

At DNC, Teamsters Explain What is Needed

A top Teamster voice on the issue of pension participate in multiemployer plans have contributed security joined with the House Ways and Means Committee chairman and other union leaders on August 18 in calling for reforms that would boost failing multiemployer pensions plans to ensure that workers and retirees get the benefits they deserve. 

International Vice President John Murphy, one of several participants in a virtual panel on retirement security at the Democratic National Convention, said there is no time for delay in coming up with a solution to the nation’s multiemployer pension crisis, which is jeopardizing the hard-earned nest eggs of some 1.5 million Americans. 

“Today, approximately 125 pension plans face insolvency in the next 10 years,” he told viewers. “Congress must fund the failing pension system. General President Hoffa of the Teamsters has promised he will not rest until it happens.” 

The Teamsters have worked closely with House Ways and Means Chairman Richard Neal (D-Mass.) over the past several years to craft pension reform legislation that would stabilize funds like the union’s Central States Plan. That bill, known as the Butch Lewis Act, passed the House of Representatives with bipartisan support in July 2019 but has remained stalled in the U.S. Senate. Efforts to reach a consensus on the issue are ongoing. 

“What we are asking for as John Murphy described…is not the federal government to bail out the pension plans, but provide a backstop,” Rep. Neal said. “We don’t want to say to someone who is 58 years old that they need to take a benefit cut.” 

Marc Perrone, the United Food & Commercial Workers’ International President, acknowledged that pension reform can be a complicated issue. But he said it is one that cannot be ignored. 

“It is time for the executive branch and Congress to fix this problem. Not only because it is the moral thing to do, but because it is good public policy,” he said. “We must choose to lead where others have not.” 

Ben Harris, a Biden-Harris campaign senior adviser, agreed. 

“Just because that compensation is deferred, doesn’t mean workers have any less right to it,” he said. “There is a real fairness element here. They paid into it and should have it. And under a Biden administration, they will.” 

Murphy has spent the last five years traveling across the country hearing from members and their families about what will happen if their benefits are cut. He recalled a visit to Buffalo, N.Y., where he spoke to a retiree who told him he would have to put his wife—who suffers from multiple sclerosis— in a Medicaid nursing home if his benefits were slashed. 

Those stories, he said, bring this retirement crisis into focus. 

“I am passionate about this because this issue is real and it matters to millions of Americans,” Murphy said. “These are human stories. When Franklin Roosevelt created the New Deal, he said the government would create a social safety net so you can live with dignity. That net is being torn up.” 

Murphy wasn’t the only Teamster to be featured at the DNC. On August 17, Local 8 member Russell Bruce appeared in a video montage that aired during event. Bruce works as a Teamster groundskeeper at Penn State University. 

“We need a leader who actually supports unions for our hard-working people,” he said in the DNC video.