Worcester’s Teamsters on the rise?

By Gordon Davis

The Teamsters have tentatively organized the technicians at St. Vincent Hospital in downtown Worcester.

The nascent unit of the Teamsters is awaiting a unionizing election. Should the majority of the technicians at St. Vincent vote in favor of the union, then the hospital management would be compelled to negotiate in good faith with the new technicians union. The negations would then be codified in a contract or collective bargaining agreement.

Given the petition for election to the National Labor Relation Board (NLRB), the management of St. Vincent cannot legally retaliate against any of the technicians for union organizing work done outside of their own duty work time.

The NLRB has set a goal of not more than 56 days from the filing of the petition to the day of election, sometime in late June 2015.

The Teamsters union was expelled from the AFL-CIO in 1957, after allegations that its leadership was associated with organized crime. Jimmy Hoffa was president of the Teamsters at the time. His son, Jimmy Hoffa Jr., is now national leader of the Teamsters. The Teamsters today have a similar structure as the AFL CIO. It organizes in all industries – not just truck drivers.

The Teamsters today is only a shadow of its former self in terms of its working class advocacy/struggles. It sometimes calls for strikes but, in general, the Teamsters, under Hoffa, have become more like a business-as-usual organization.

In contrast to the business model of the Teamsters:  On March 15, 2015, a more militant group of Teamsters met in Worcester, in the Italian American Club.

Teamsters United is a  caucus inside of the Teamsters, and it is working to unseat Jimmy Hoffa Jr.

It wants to return the Teamsters to a more democratic and hands-on practice.  Tim Sylvester is running against Hoffa in the 2016 election. Mr. Sylvester is from the Teamster Local located in Long Island, New York, Local 804.  He said he and his fellow Local 804 brothers and sisters successfully resisted the sellout contract that Hoffa imposed on most of the other Teamsters locals.

Running for Vice President of Teamster United is Fred Zuckerman, from Ken Kentucky’s Local 89. Zuckerman is something of a firebrand and is certainly charismatic. Given his Kentucky union background, I am not surprised that he can hold your attention and inspire people to strive for a world in which workers have more power in the workplace.

Issues not discussed were racial and gender disparaties, given the number of cases against United Parcel Services being brought at the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

The issues that Sylvester and Zuckerman raised were:

the so called sell-out contracts that created the two-tier wage system in UPS, where new employees are being paid minimum wages

the underfunded and delayed pensions, inability of the National Union to organize Fed Ex

and Locals being able to veto a contract for their area

Although this Teamsters insurgency group has an uphill struggle to unseat the entrenched Hoffa, Sylvester and Zuckerman presented what seemed to be a viable plan to the locals recently gathered at Worcester’s Italian American Club.

It consisted to a large extent of “bring your own voters.”

There is a rumor that Jim Peters who is the present Business Agent for Worcester’s Local 170 and the negotiator for St. Vincent’s technicians might not run for reelection in 2016.

It has been alleged that he has tired of making quid pro quo agreements with the employers and being complained to by the employees. The new goals of the more the vocal Teamster union members might prove too much for him.

The future shall bring us the answers about what happens to Hoffa, Peters … and the Teamsters.