By Teamsters General President Jim Hoffa
Published in the Detroit News, Jan. 6, 2021
The new year often brings the feeling of a clean slate, and that need to clear the decks is even more necessary in 2021 given everything Americans experienced during the previous 12 months.
Words truly fail to describe the depths to which 2020 brought us. Of course, there was (and still is) the coronavirus, as well as a bitterly divisive presidential election. Millions of hardworking Americans lost their jobs due to the pandemic, and many still haven’t gotten them back. By the time the holiday season arrived, a lot of people were just ready for a long nap, hoping they would reawaken in a world that seemed normal again.
Well, normalcy might not be here yet, but the ongoing COVID-19 vaccine distribution roll out which UPS Teamsters are participating in shows a real solution is near. Meanwhile, the Teamsters — with more than 1 million frontline workers — have job openings in these essential industries. And the upcoming inauguration of President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris brings hope that we will soon have a federal government that puts the people above the powerful.
Workers are ready to move beyond the empty promises of the past four years. The Teamsters have been engaged in discussions with the Biden transition team for months in an effort to communicate the union’s top issues and to build common ground with the incoming administration. We are optimistic that those efforts will prove to be fruitful not only in the early days of the Biden presidency, but in the months and years to come.
It is expected that the Biden’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) team will quickly act to implement new airborne infectious disease enforceable standards to better protect workers on the job. Beyond that, the addition of former OSHA administrator David Michaels to Biden’s Transition COVID-19 Advisory Board proves that this White House is serious about workplace safety.
Of course, there is still much more to be done. The nation’s workers still need more economic relief, especially as the coronavirus continues its relentless assault on the nation’s health and economy. And then there are a slew of issues that have been Teamster priorities in recent years. Getting a fix for the 1.5 million Americans facing uncertain retirements due to their faltering multiemployer pensions remains the union’s top priority, and one that Biden and Harris both previously promised to address once they took office.
Additionally, the Teamsters are seeking solutions on such issues as beefed up labor standards, transportation, automation, trade and implementation of the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement. The fight for expanded union rights and against misclassification, upgraded and safer transportation networks and fair trade are keystones of this union’s platform not only because they affect our members, but because they can help build back a stronger middle class that allows our country to flourish.
The Teamsters, like many of you, are hopeful about America’s future in the coming year. That hope, however, isn’t because of daydream optimism. Rather, it is based on science and on the experience of President-elect Biden who has shown in the past that he can get things done to help working Americans. That is how we are going to build this country back stronger.