Hoffa holds tea party responsible for “tremendous war on workers”

WASHINGTON (PAI) — The tea party, which has taken over the Republican Party and produced “craziness” there, is responsible for the “tremendous war on workers” now being waged nationwide, Teamsters President James Hoffa says.

And in response, the labor movement has united politically and is fighting back through constant on-the-ground cooperation, led by “Labor Tables” of leaders meeting and having their unions pooling resources on politics, he said.

But even so, Hoffa predicted, labor would still get outspent by business by huge margins in the 2012 election. Unions will offset that with “boots on the ground” for Democratic President Barack Obama, he declared.

Hoffa’s Sept. 13 remarks and answers to questions at the National Press Club came as labor heads into the homestretch towards the Nov. 6 election. Many union leaders – including Hoffa – call the balloting the most vital to workers in decades.

Hoffa said that’s because not only is there a war on workers waged by business and its right wing and GOP allies, but that labor’s foes also launched a “cultural war” to crush the labor movement.

“We’ve never seen this type of activity before” on multiple fronts and in multiple states, he said. The conflict includes voter suppression, he declared. “And who’s maintaining it? The tea party and the right wing. They’re trying to suppress the vote.”

Hoffa compared the tea party and its views to the 1950s-era John Birch Society, a notorious radical right group that used “anti-communism” as a cover for its extreme views against workers, African-Americans, civil rights, the Supreme Court and others.

“But there’s also a tidal wave attacking the pro-choice position and a woman’s right to medical health. This is all part of a cultural revolution (created) by the Republicans and the Koch brothers,” millionaire right wingers.

The Kochs and about “six to eight other” big right-wing funders — Hoffa reeled off a few names – together will spend more than $100 million to try to buy the 2012 election and to strip workers and unions of any power to oppose them, Hoffa said. Their objective, he added, “is to take the U.S. back to the 1890s.” by unleashing hundreds of millions of dollars from big donors and corporations into the U.S. political system, Hoffa said. The situation is so bad, he added, that the Teamsters now back a proposed constitutional amendment declaring that, for purposes of politics, corporations are not persons and should not have those Bill of Rights protections.

“This is about more than Mitt Romney versus Barack Obama,” Hoffa said of the contest between the GOP nominee and his foe, the incumbent Democratic president. “It’s about the types of cultural changes they (the Right) want to impose” on the country.

“So why are they attacking organized labor?” he asked. “The Right wing knows organized labor is not only the backbone of the Democratic Party, but of the entire progressive movement. They know we’re organized, we have money, and we have boots on the ground” to oppose their schemes.

Citing the GOP convention platform, he said those include a ban on project labor agreements, a national “right to work” law, “paycheck deception,” and opposition to job-creating measures, such as infrastructure improvements, to put people back to work.

So the Teamsters and other unions will pound the pavements to communicate with their members not just about which candidates support workers. Hoffa spent much of his speech praising Obama, including touting benefits of the controversial health care law. He added Teamsters will not only tell members about registering to vote but also about how to ensure their votes are counted this fall.

The Labor Tables are up and running in key states in the industrial Midwest, including Ohio, Wisconsin, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Indiana, Hoffa said. They got their start when the union movement united to battle Wisconsin Right wing GOP Gov. Scott Walker’s destruction of collective bargaining rights for state and local workers.

Hoffa said they’ll continue after the election.

The Labor Tables had a mixed record in Wisconsin, he conceded: Walker killed collective bargaining and beat back a labor-pushed recall effort. “But we won the state senate majority” in that same recall vote “so we can stop his madness, at least for now.”

And when Gov. John Kasich, R-Ohio, tried an even more draconian anti-collective bargaining law there, labor decisively beat him in a referendum, Hoffa said.

On other issues, Hoffa said the best way to encourage people to organize is to strengthen the overall economy. He also forecast that health care benefits and pensions would be the two top issues in next year’s bargaining with United Parcel Service, the union’s largest employer. And he gave no prediction on when the federal government’s 1989 consent decree governing the union, to clean up corruption, would be lifted. Compliance costs the Teamsters $3 million-$4 million yearly, which he would prefer to put into organizing, Hoffa said.

Photo: teamsters.org



Mark Gruenberg
Mark Gruenberg

Mark Gruenberg is head of the Washington, D.C., bureau of People's World. He is also the editor of Press Associates Inc. (PAI), a union news service in Washington, D.C. that he has headed since 1999. Previously, he worked as Washington correspondent for the Ottaway News Service, as Port Jervis bureau chief for the Middletown, NY Times Herald Record, and as a researcher and writer for Congressional Quarterly. Mark obtained his BA in public policy from the University of Chicago and worked as the University of Chicago correspondent for the Chicago Daily News.