Syracuse, NY – On May 23, around 100 Teamsters gathered at Ye Olde Clipper Tavern here to meet candidates in the O’Brien-Zuckerman Teamsters United Slate, also referred to as the OZ Slate. After about an hour of shaking hands and speaking with the attendees, OZ Slate candidates took to a podium to speak to the members about the issues in the upcoming Teamster leadership elections. The candidates laid out their vision to reverse decades of concessions and membership decline in the International Brotherhood of Teamsters.
Secretary Treasurer of Teamsters Local 89 and current International Vice President Avral Thompson opened for the speakers, declaring, “We’re gonna change the direction of this union.” He was followed by Daniel Kane Jr., president of Local 202, which led a successful strike at Hunts Point Produce Market in New York City earlier this year. Kane implored the gathered members, “We need all of you to take that energy out there in this election,” and said that ultimately, “The union can lead the way to a better future for the working class.”
Other speakers, including Billy Hamilton, president of Local 107 and international VP; John Palmer, another international VP and former international organizer, and Tony Jones, president of Local 413 and International VP, followed similar themes. In general, they registered the need to change course, to involve and engage the membership, and take the fight to the companies.
Fred Zuckerman, candidate for general secretary treasurer, and Sean O’Brien, candidate for general president, took the podium last. Zuckerman attacked the current leadership under Jimmy Hoffa Jr. for imposing a contract on the UPS members in 2018 using the so-called ‘two-thirds rule,’ which he characterized as a crutch. He vowed that an O’Brien-Zuckerman administration would “make [the rank-and-file membership] a part of what we do” and “negotiate contracts that the members want” instead of forcing contracts on the members.
O’Brien followed Zuckerman in a similar vein, saying early in his remarks, “We need to take this union back and put it in the hands of the people most important to us: the members.” He then critiqued the current leadership for having a “top down philosophy” and for not protecting, preserving or improving the union. O’Brien also criticized Ken Hall, current general secretary treasurer, for bragging about the union’s healthy strike fund. “That’s because we don’t strike anybody! That ends in 2021!” he declared.
After O’Brien ended his speech, he solicited questions from the gathered members, and answered questions about the state of pensions in the union and how the two-thirds rule would be addressed at the upcoming IBT convention. Members stayed after for a raffle drawing, before finally dispersing when rain and wind picked up in the early afternoon.
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