Under the banner of “Teamster Strong,” nearly 5,000 Teamster delegates, alternates and guests amassed at the Paris Hotel in Las Vegas for the 29th International Brotherhood of Teamsters convention on June 27-July 1. The weather outside was a blistering 114° and, inside the meeting hall, Teamsters were hot to move the union forward.
The convention has three primary purposes: one is to set the direction for the union for the next five years with resolutions on political issues and tactics; the second is to amend the constitution so that it reflects the current needs of the union. And finally, convention delegates nominate the candidates that members will vote on to serve as the union’s leadership for a five-year term.
In the days leading up to the convention, scores of Teamsters came to Las Vegas to meet in the committees that would review and create the resolutions on which the delegates would vote. The committees included Constitution, Diversity, Organizing, Pension and Benefits, Political, and Legislative, and more.
General President James P. Hoffa chaired the event and described how the Teamsters have organized more than 300,000 workers since the last convention.
Secretary-Treasurer Ken Hall explained that the union’s finances are stronger than ever, with the union doubling its assets in the last five years. Both talked about how important it was that the Teamsters will no longer be under the control of the government consent decree.
A major theme of the convention was solidarity. Delegates heard from union leaders from Australia, Great Britain, South Africa, Ireland, Italy, Israel and Canada, as well as from the presidents of the United Auto Workers and UNITE-HERE. As Tony Sheldon, head of Australia’s Transport Workers Union and the the 4.7 million strong international transport association said, “If you pick a fight with one of us, you pick a fight with all of us.”
Organizing campaigns around the nation were featured, many of which were lead by Joint Council 7 and its locals. For example, delegates learned about the campaigns at Taylor Farms and with Silicon Valley tech bus drivers, as well as the University of California contract campaign (Local 2010), pulic sector organizing (Local 856) and Fed Ex organizing (Local 439).
There was also some star power. Guitarist Tom Morello from the bands Rage Against the Machine and the Prophets of Rage received the Teamsters President’s Award before rocking the house. Video messages came from Jon Hamm, Esai Morales, Alec Baldwin, Janeane Garofalo and others who work with Teamsters on movie and television sets.
In talking about all that the Teamsters do to improve working conditions for solid waste and recycling workers, in a moving presentation, two veterans of the 1968 Memphis sanitation strike—Alvin Turner and Baxter Leach— told their story. This was the strike that Dr. Martin Luther King attended just before being assassinated.
Delegates voted on numerous constitutional changes. Importantly, the delegates voted to increase strike benefits to a minimum of $150 per week, up from $100 per week. “Increasing strike benefits sends a strong message to employers that Teamsters are ready to strike and win,” said one delegate in favor of the change.
Nominating candidates for the October mailballot election of Teamster leadership was the centerpiece of the convention. The Canadian vice-presidential candidates were elected without opposition. In the West, the opposition did not meet the 5% threshhold to warrant putting the election on the ballot. Joint Council 7 President Rome Aloise was therefore re-elected to serve another five-year term as Western Region Vice President along with Ron Herrera and Rick Middleton.
“I’m humbled to have received such strong support from the delegates, and am pleased to have the opportunity to again serve as Vice President,” said Aloise.
Each Teamster member will receive a mail ballot in October to vote for the At-large Vice Presidents and the two top leadership positions.