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By Michael Rose
June 28 — Officers and other speakers at the International Brotherhood of Teamsters convention in Las Vegas June 27 told members it's important to support labor-friendly candidates in the November elections, but stopped short of endorsing a presidential candidate.
Ken Hall, secretary-treasurer of the IBT, denounced the right-to-work law recently enacted in his home state of West Virginia, and said the Teamsters would be joining other labor groups in challenging the law in court.
The West Virginia right-to-work measure is slated to take effect July 1, after the state legislature overrode a gubernatorial veto. But Hall said recent polling in the state has shown declining support for the measure, and urged union members to vote right-to-work supporters out of office.
“West Virginia workers are united behind a new campaign slogan: remember in November. If you voted against us, we’ll vote against you,” Hall said. “This upcoming election is an absolute referendum for us. Not just in West Virginia, but everywhere.”
Hall also said that on the issue of right-to-work, Donald Trump “has got his head shoved up his ass.”
The Teamsters union hasn't made an endorsement in the 2016 presidential race, making it one of the last labor unions not to do so. A union spokesman told Bloomberg BNA June 28 that the union would not be “making any decisions” on a presidential endorsement prior to or during the convention, which ends July 1.
However, there were several fleeting references to Trump during the convention's first day.
Jason Rabinowitz, secretary-treasurer of IBT Local 2010, which represents some 14,000 clerical workers throughout the University of California system, said it was crucial to make sure “a certain unhinged, orange tinged, far-right fringed … racist con-man never sets foot in the White House.”
Patricia Stryker, an official with an IBT local that represents public employees in New York City, said the November election was crucial because “come November, if we don’t do the right thing, the United States Supreme Court is on the line. And that is the kiss of death for both public sector unions and private sector unions.”
Speakers at the convention also pointed to the Supreme Court's decision in Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association, which left intact a lower court's decision allowing public sector unions to collect “fair share” fees from non-members. Although the court June 28 denied a rehearing of the case (see related story) many observers expect the issue to be newly considered by the court at some point in the future.
Teamsters President James P. Hoffa also highlighted the importance of electing U.S. senators who were friendly to organized labor.
“If we can elect worker-friendly representatives to the Senate, we’ll be able to defend our job standards and bring the benefits we have to others,” Hoffa said.
Tom Millonzi, secretary-treasurer of IBT Local 200 in Wisconsin spoke about former Sen. Russ Feingold (D-Wis.), who is running against incumbent Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) in a closely watched race. Feingold has been endorsed by the Teamsters, he said.
Jim Kabell, a Teamsters international trustee, highlighted the importance of governors' races in November, including in his home state of Missouri, where Gov. Jay Nixon (D), who vetoed a right-to-work bill, is term-limited and will step down after the election.
Convention delegates also heard from Catherine Cortez Masto, former Nevada attorney general, who is running for the Senate seat that will be vacated by Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D), who is retiring.
Masto also condemned Trump for various statements he had made, and said her opponent, Rep. Joe Heck (R-Nev.), had endorsed him. “With your support, we'll put a Democrat in the White House,” Masto said.
Convention delegates also approved two resolutions June 27, one on increasing members' support for the union's political action committee, known as DRIVE, and another opposing municipal taxes on soda, unless such ordinances “include measures to address the potential adverse impact upon our members.”
The IBT represents many drivers and warehouse workers for soft drink companies, and sees taxes on soft drinks, such as one recently enacted in Philadelphia, as a threat to those workers' jobs.
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