North America's Strongest Union

Workers' prosperity resulted from fighting, Hoffa says

Teamster General President Jim Hoffa just sent a letter to the editor at The Economist, a British news magazine started back in the 19th century to promote free trade.

One of their columnists, "Schumpeter," wrote an essay saying that unions might offend people by talking about "fighting."

Schumpeter, by the way, is named after the Austrian economist who coined the phrase "creative destruction." (Kind of goes with free trade, doesn't it?)

Let's see if The Economist publishes Hoffa's letter. Here it is:

Sir –

“Schumpeter” is exactly wrong when he says unions’ “talk of ‘fighting’ . . . offends those who are more interested in getting on than getting even” (June 5).

Fighting is the only way that increasingly desperate workers can “get on.” Otherwise their incomes will continue to fall as corporate profit rises. Workers will fight when they get action and support from the union they are fighting with.

Witness 8,000 Continental Airlines ramp workers – the industry’s lowest paid. Continental’s management repeatedly cut their wages and benefits to make up for its own mistakes.

The Continental employees fought a long, nationwide campaign to form a union with the Teamsters. They ultimately succeeded despite management’s best efforts. These workers not only talked “fight” but took to the front lines in Houston, Newark and Cleveland.

Sure, unions need to adapt. The Teamsters are fighting in new ways, with new allies. Truck drivers in America’s ports allied with community and environmental groups to clean up the ports’ air and organize as Teamsters.

The Teamsters are both “champions of public services” and defenders of workers. As we organize school bus workers, our slogan “Driving Up Standards” refers as much to safety standards for students as it does wages and conditions for workers.

It isn’t enough to “think hard” if we “are to survive in the age of austerity.” Workers’ prosperity has always resulted from fighting, never from “thinking hard.”

James P. Hoffa
General President
International Brotherhood of Teamsters
Washington, D.C.

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