Friday, February 08, 2008

Teamsters up membership in '07

Teamsters President James P. Hoffa said Friday the union recruited 23,000 new members in 2007 and ended the year with membership above where it was in 2006.

"That might not sound like a lot but it is a lot," Hoffa told reporters. "We are out organizing every day."

Despite some layoffs, the Teamsters will end 2007 up roughly 13,000 members to nearly 1.45 million, said Bret Caldwell, a Teamsters spokesman.

The Teamsters had 1,398,573 members as of the end of 2006, according to a report filed with the Department of Labor in April.

Hoffa said the union has already gained another 5,000 members in 2008 -- most of them at UPS Freight. "It's so tough out there," Hoffa said. "If you're in one industry and you don't change and you don't find new areas to organize, you're going to have a very hard time growing."

In an interview, Hoffa also said the Teamsters are talking with two small unions about merging, including one with about 60,000 members.

Hoffa spoke to reporters for two hours at an event at the National Press Club. Like the UAW, Hoffa said the Teamsters were declining to make an endorsement between Sens. Barack Obama, D-Ill., and Hillary Clinton, D-N.Y.

The union has won a pledge from both candidates on several key issues, including the Employee Free Choice Act, a proposal that would make it easier for unions to organize. The bill is strongly opposed by businesses and the Bush Administration.

But Clinton's husband, former President Bill Clinton, may be lobbying Hoffa for the nod on Tuesday, when Hoffa is honored by American Friends of Yitzhak Rabin Center in Washington. Former President Clinton is speaking at the dinner in Washington along with Hoffa.

The group honoring the slain Israeli leader will give an award honoring the Hoffa family's support of Israel, especially James R. Hoffa's early backing.

Hoffa also talked about the union's aggressive campaign to oust Transportation Secretary Mary Peters, including launching a website and posting a giant billboard board at a subway stop frequented by transportation department workers.

Teamsters are upset that Peters OK'd a pilot program to allow Mexican trucks and drivers to cross into the United States, despite a bill passed by Congress and signed Dec. 26 that prohibits any funding for new pilot programs. The Teamsters will challenge the decision in the U.S. Court of Appeals in San Francisco on Feb. 12.

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