Jimmy Hoffa: Teamster DINO

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Teamster wants to end secret-ballot union elections

Although Sen. John McCain is running to be elected our next president, his proposals to help our country are stuck in the past. McCain's prescription to treat our ailing economy here in Michigan is standing by the job-draining North American Free Trade Agreement, or NAFTA, and adopting President Bush's failed policies.

Both McCain and Bush support anti-union laws that make it harder for workers to unionize. They want to privatize Social Security. They have no meaningful plan to deal with our country's health care crisis. And they dismiss the good-paying manufacturing jobs we lost due to NAFTA with no plans to replace them. In January, McCain even said that "there are some jobs that aren't coming back to Michigan."

Well, they're not coming back with McCain as president, that's for sure. We need to elect a new leader who is willing to break with Bush's failed policies.

Unfortunately, many Americans share our woes in Michigan. Since Bush took office, not only are we working harder for less, but 2 million more of us are out of work and 11 million more lack health care insurance. We have had slow wage growth, skyrocketing costs for gasoline and health insurance, and four straight months of job losses. Foreclosure is a looming possibility for millions of families.

Yet McCain believes we don't need to significantly change course. He credits Bush for overseeing "great progress economically," but he fails to mention that for the first time since World War II, we have experienced sustained national economic growth while personal incomes have dropped. McCain's economic stimulus plan is based on increased deregulation, slashing corporate taxes from 35 percent to 25 percent, and making permanent the Bush income tax cuts, which disproportionately benefit the wealthy.

The tax cuts illustrate how McCain has turned his back on working-class Americans' problems. In 2001, when the cuts were debated in Congress, McCain was one of just two Senate Republicans to oppose these taxes due to concerns that turned out to be accurate -- increased budget deficits, unanticipated defense costs and a costly Iraq war. He has switched to court the divisive supporters of President Bush.

Unlike the Democratic presidential candidates, McCain is opposed to renegotiating the so-called free trade agreements that have resulted in 3.7-million U.S. manufacturing jobs being lost in the past 10 years -- a major factor in Michigan being one of only two states to lose jobs in the same period. These are the same pro-business policies that have helped make it so difficult for working-class Americans to make a living.

Our country's history proves that a sure way to counteract income disparity is through unions. For example, economic distribution was much more equal in the 1950s than it is today. Then, the middle class thrived in part because more workers were union members. A correlation developed during the past several decades. As unionization rates have decreased, income disparity and companies' aggression against workers who seek to form a union have increased.

Being a union member creates opportunities for workers to build power. Our new president must recognize this and push to sign the Employee Free Choice Act, or EFCA, which will allow workers to build a union free from an employer's anti-worker campaign -- when a majority of workers at a company signs cards, a union is formed.

An example of this happened earlier in the year, when more than 11,000 UPS Freight workers across the country signed cards and became Teamsters. This UPS subsidiary is the former Overnight, operated by an anti-union executive who refused to honor his employees' choice to become union members. Within the past 30 days, the workers overwhelmingly ratified a new national contract, as did some 7,000 workers at DHL Express facilities.

"We protected what we already had and we've gained more." said Patti McGuckin, a dock agent and 20-year Teamster at the Detroit DHL Express facility. "We're getting wage increases, and our pension and health-and-welfare plans are protected. In today's economy, especially here in Detroit, that means a lot."

McGuckin and other working-class Americans deserve elected officials who understand the American dream: to work a full-time job and earn wages and benefits that will support them and their families.

- James P. Hoffa is president of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters.


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