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Reformers build support for Rank and File Power slate
Get out the vote for Leedham

By Don Schraffenberger, Steward, Teamsters Local 705 | November 2, 2001 | Page 11

CHICAGO--Supporters of Tom Leedham's Rank and File Power slate are noticing a shift of opinion away from James P. Hoffa in this rematch election.

In the 1998 Teamster election Hoffa's father's name carried the day over reform candidate Leedham. Gloating Hoffa backers at UPS told me in 1998 that with a Hoffa in office, the bosses would be quaking in their shoes.

More than three years later, the bosses at UPS are dreaming about a Hoffa victory. Referring to upcoming contract talks with UPS, company spokesperson Norman Black said, "We are certainly not dreading or fearing negotiations…The Teamsters under its current leadership has shown a willingness to work with us…We're very confident."

Leedham has traveled to plant gates throughout the U.S. and Canada to share his vision of reform: 1,000 new organizers, rank and filers on all negotiating committees and ending multiple salaries for union officers.

And unlike 1998, many Teamsters are fed up with the Hoffa myth, and are giving Leedham a real hearing. Christine Royster, a vice presidential candidate for the Central Region on the Rank and File Power slate, has noticed a difference.

"I campaigned last time, and this campaign has a whole different feel," Royster told Socialist Worker. "There are a lot of disgruntled Teamsters that voted for a Teamster name--Hoffa being the Teamster name--and have been very disappointed."

Rich DeVries, a Chicago campaign organizer for Leedham, said, "The response is completely different. Three years ago, the Hoffa myth was massive. Three years later, there has been super disenchantment."

DeVries described how Hoffa sabotaged the Chicago Ready Mix cement drivers' strike. These drivers overwhelmingly voted for Hoffa in 1998; now they are switching to Leedham. There are similar stories at the Holland and Yellow freight companies.

Ballots will be counted on November 13. Hoffa is still favored to win. He has 90 percent of the union bureaucracy behind him.

Yet, a Leedham upset cannot be ruled out. Hoffa, unlike 1998, now has a dismal track record that his father's myth can't hide.

It's up to rank-and-file Teamsters to convince these former Hoffa supporters to vote for Leedham and the Rank and File Power slate if they're serious about taking on the bosses in key contract fights coming up soon.

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