Social Protectionism

Eric Beck rayrena at
Fri Mar 10 20:18:31 PST 2000

Doug, responding to Rakesh, wrote:

>>instead of organizing or even threatening strikes, Hoffa is spending his
>>time fighting for non application for China and the social clauses
>Actually that's not entirely true. Hoffa's doing more organizing than
>most people thought he would, or so I'm told. And the Overnite fight
>is pretty intense.

Excerpts from an article in the December 1999 Labor Notes. Written by the ubiquitous Jane Slaughter:


It looked like a bold move--a national strike against a brazen labor-law violator, an attempt to force the company to the bargaining table. Beginning October 24, the Teamsters stationed picket lines at dozens of freight terminals belonging to Overnite Transportation, the nation's sixth-largest carrier and largest nonunion trucking company.

Support for the strike among Overnite workers themselves, however, is spotty. In his first national strike since taking office in March, Teamsters President James Hoffa may have bitten off more than he can chew. [...] Since the workers have neither a contract nor full union representation, the Teamsters called their strike "bold and daring... the first of its kind since World War II." [...] Those numbers [40 percent of Overnite workers belong to the Teamsters] exaggerate the union's current backing, however. Support is high at some terminals. At others, however, with the union election several years in the past, former backers have moved on to other jobs. [...] In Decatur, Illinois, for example, says Local 279 president Rusty Davis, "They [Overnite workers] are afraid of the company. We've got retirees and members and business agents from other locals [manning the picket lines]." [...] When Hoffa took office, an alternative to an early strike would have been first to beef up organizing--with help from rank and filers from other companies--so as to rebuild Teamster strength among the Overnite workers. But Hoffa's policy in all the battles facing the union has been to "resolve" them, meaning a quick wrap up, even if it results in a setback or bad deal for the union.

In calling the strike, perhaps Hoffa was harking back to the days when his father signed up freight companies in the Midwest partly by intimidating employers, whether the drivers and dock workers at a particular company were organized or not. The brave Overnite workers who are laying it on the line in 1999 may find that such a muscle strategy requires more muscle, and that the only way to build up muscle is with patience, persistence, and hard work.


and re:

>No doubt it's only the TDU threat that keeps him
>on his toes, but he could be doing worse.

"Leaders of the reform group Teamsters for a Democratic Union encouraged members to get involved, and many at TDU's November convention had been to picket lines. Privately, though, some worried that the union had called the strike without adequate preparation and strength in the ranks. They contrasted it to the careful build-up to the 1997 UPS strike, led by Hoffa's predecessor, Ron Carey."


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