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By Michael Rose
June 27 — Members of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters should continue to pressure lawmakers to defeat the proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement, IBT President James P. Hoffa said June 27.
Speaking at the union's convention in Las Vegas, Hoffa also pointed to a number of organizing successes in the past several years.
Delegates to the convention also approved a resolution articulating the union's opposition to the TPP that calls for a “new framework for negotiating trade agreements.”
They said the union will “continue to fight and to lobby against any trade agreement that does not increase jobs in the U.S. and protect workers' rights.”
The Teamsters convention, held every five years, serves as a nominating convention for international union officers and a chance for the union to amend its constitution. IBT members will vote later this year in an election overseen by an independent election supervisor.
Hoffa is expected to be re-nominated for IBT general president later this week, but he is likely to face as a challenger Fred Zuckerman, a union leader from Kentucky who is backed by Teamsters for a Democratic Union, a group that opposes the Hoffa administration.
In his opening speech, Hoffa pointed to various successes the union has seen. He said the IBT organized some 300,000 workers over the past 10 years, including 40,000 school bus drivers.
Various other groups of workers joined the union through affiliations, he said, such as a unit of 1,700 nurses at Rady Children's Hospital in San Diego who are represented by an independent union that recently affiliated with the IBT.
Hoffa also said that at the last convention, in 2011, he had pledged to dissolve a 1988 consent decree intended to root out corruption within the union.
A federal judge approved a settlement agreement phasing out government oversight of the union in February 2015, but that agreement specified that union elections would continue to be independently conducted and monitored.
“We said we’d end the consent decree and get rid of the RICO lawsuit. Well we did it,” Hoffa said. “On February 17, 2015 the judge signed the order ending the consent decree and getting the government out of our union. We run a clean union and we’re proud of it.”
Hoffa also urged union members to vote in the coming November elections, but declined to endorse a particular presidential candidate. However, he said, “we've got a chance to take back the Senate,” currently controlled by Republicans, which he said would be “powerful.”
“We can do it, but we've got to do it together,” Hoffa said in urging members to vote. He also emphasized the importance of supporting candidates who were opposed to right-to-work laws.
The IBT is one of the last major U.S. labor unions to not have made an endorsement in the 2016 presidential race. Presumptive Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton and presumptive Republican nominee Donald Trump have both voiced opposition to the TPP.
Later during the five-day meeting, Hoffa said, the convention will take action to “increase strike benefits and shorten the time need to get those benefits.” The union's strike fund currently stands at about $150 million, Hoffa said.
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