A woman as president of the
macho Teamsters Union that was
once headed by supermacho Jimmy Hoffa? It could happen.
Sandy Pope thinks so, and
she's going to try as hard as she
can to make it happen – going to try as hard as she can to succeed Hoffa's lawyer
son, Jimmy junior, as head of one of the country's largest and most powerful
If a majority of delegates
at the Teamster convention in Las
Vegas on June 27 vote for Pope to unseat Hoffa, who was first elected a dozen
years ago, she'll be only the third woman to ever head an international union.
Randi Weingarten, the highly
regarded president of the
American Federation of Teachers, who took office in 2008, is one of the others.
The third is Mary Kay Henry, who just recently succeeded the controversial Andy
Stern as president of the country's largest union, the 1.3 million member
Service Employees International Union, the SEIU.
The Teamsters comes in at
number two, with 1.2 million
members. Hoffa's supporters argue that Sandy Pope is not up to handling such a
huge and diverse union. Her record, however, seems to indicate otherwise.
For 33 years, the 54-year-old
Pope has held her own in the
union's macho culture, as a driver of big long haul freight trucks and as a
warehouse worker.For seven years
she's been president of a New York Teamster local of drivers and warehouse
workers, one of only 16 of the Teamster's 407 locals nationwide to be headed by
Before that, Pope was an
international union representative
in the Teamster's warehouse division. She's been a longtime leader of the
Teamsters for a Democratic Union (TDU), which has exposed much of the
corruption that's been common in the union since the days of Hoffa senior as
The TDU's work has led to
some important corrections in
union operations, but much remains to be done, and it's unlikely that Hoffa
junior would do much about it.As
the incumbent, he's running a status quo campaign.
Some local level Teamster
officials fear retaliation from
Hoffa and his allies if they campaign for Pope. But Pope certainly isn't
backing off one bit. She's promising to halt or at least slow the concessions
that Teamster negotiators have granted employers in recent years. Under her,
she says, the union "will close the concessions stand."
It also would push the union's
officers off the gravy train.
In one Minnesota Teamsters local closely allied with Hoffa, for instance, the
principal officer is paid $200,000 a year. Hoffa himself is paid $363,000.And
that's going on at the same time
that many rank-and-file Teamsters are taking pay and benefit cuts and otherwise
feeling the effects of a
It's what the magazine "Labor
accurately calls "the union leadership's back-scratching, pocket-lining
Generally speaking, Pope's
promising to return to the basics
of union operations – to build public support, mobilize the union's current
members and wage a major organizing drive to recruit new members. Pope also
promises that some 20,000 of the union's members whose jobs have been
downgraded to part-time can expecta drive to make those jobs full-time.
It's clear that, like many
dissident Teamsters, Sandy Pope
is "sick of having a lawyer with a big name hijack our union."