Transforming the Teamsters since March 19, 1999
Today, March 19, 2019, marks an important milestone in Teamster history. On this date, General President James P. Hoffa became only the second General President to log 20 years as head of the Teamsters Union. Over the course of those two decades, the Teamsters have regained their mantle as the strongest union in North America through rebuilding its finances, organizing the unorganized and negotiating the strongest contracts in labor. In corporate boardrooms, on Capitol Hill and throughout the labor movement, the Teamsters again command respect.
“When our administration took office 20 years ago, the union was on the verge of bankruptcy and was hopelessly divided,” Hoffa said. “We faced employers bent on destroying our union and others willing to spend large sums of money to keep workers from joining the Teamsters. We found good union employers fighting for their survival in the face of government policies that rewarded companies sending jobs overseas. We also faced employers who wanted to take advantage of our weakness to cut wages and health care benefits, and eliminate pension and retirement plans. We engaged these challenges from day one.”
Under Hoffa’s leadership, the Teamsters Union has strengthened its foundation by putting its financial house in order, which helped the union organize. In the last 20 years, the Teamsters Union has been the most active organizing union in the country. Organizing is the first step, but the work doesn’t stop there. Hoffa and his team have fought hard to negotiate the best contracts in many industries, raising wages and benefits and improving conditions for hundreds of thousands of workers.
When it comes to shaping politics and policy for this union, Hoffa’s tenure as head of the Teamsters started off strong and hasn’t looked back since. From the get-go, his administration was on the ground fighting alongside thousands of Teamster brothers and sisters in as part of the “Battle of Seattle” against the failed policies of the World Trade Organization (WTO). Hoffa sounded the clarion call against broken trade agreements and helped raised public attention to the issue.
Sticking up for unions and their ability to collectively bargain has always been paramount for the Teamsters. Hoffa has led that charge in state after state where legislatures have sought to reduce the power of unions by approving right-to-work legislation.
“We have accomplished a lot in the last 20 years but there is always more to do,” said Hoffa. “Workers’ rights and the gains we have made never stand still—we are either on the rise or someone is trying to take what we have—we only win by constantly fighting for more.”
Reflecting on serving the Teamster membership for 20 years, Hoffa added, “It has been my greatest honor to serve the great men and women of this union. I look back with pride knowing that because of the strength of the Teamsters, thousands of workers have been able to retire with dignity, thousands of children had illnesses treated because of excellent union-negotiated health care, and that thousands of Teamster families could be a part of the American middle class because they belonged to the Teamsters.”