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Leedham speech featured at TDU convention

by DON SCHRAFFENBERGER, Teamsters Local 705 | September 28, 2001 | Page 15

PITTSBURGH--Tom Leedham, reform candidate for the International Brotherhood of Teamsters presidency, was the featured speaker at the 25th annual Teamsters for a Democratic Union (TDU) convention on September 21-23. About 250 Teamsters attended the weekend of meetings and workshops.

On Saturday night, Leedham gave a fighting speech--promising to increase the strike fund, put rank-and-file Teamsters on all national negotiating committees and end two-tier contracts.

"Together with volunteer organizers we'll target places like Chicago and push Overnite out, city by city, with aggressive ambulatory picketing, member-to-member organizing and civil disobedience and street actions if that's what it takes," Leedham said. "We are not going to let the nonunion competition run the foundation of our union off the road."

Leedham also vowed to go after fat-cat Teamster officials, end their multiple salaries and put that money into hiring and training 1,000 new organizers.

On September 21, Leedham was scheduled to debate current President James P. Hoffa. Hoffa's campaign agreed to the debate under protest, but at the last minute, Hoffa chickened out and sent his vice president, Chuck Mack, to debate instead.

Workshops at the TDU convention included the upcoming UPS contract fight, winning grievances and mobilizing to win a strong contract.

Convention attendees believe that Hoffa's support has dropped since the last election. But this doesn't automatically translate into votes for Leedham.

Part of the apathy comes from confusion over the ouster of the last Teamster reform president, Ron Carey, on trumped-up charges that he was involved in campaign finance wrongdoing.

The real reason for Carey's ouster was pressure from the employers and politicians following the 1997 UPS strike.

Today, Carey is on trial in federal court on perjury charges. Unfortunately, neither Leedham nor TDU have spoken out against this politically motivated prosecution--which can only leave many Teamsters with doubts about reform.

The convention did provide the opportunity for plenty of important, informal discussions--ranging from the upcoming war and how to oppose it to getting the U.S. Navy out of Vieques, Puerto Rico. A resolution of support for the Charleston Five also was passed.

TDU members left the convention committed to turn out the vote for Leedham.

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