A message from Teamsters General President Jim Hoffa
Safety and Security
Homeland Security and Unions
Our nation's homeland security has again been a major topic lately with the scandal over foreign control of our ports, but what has been continuously ignored is the threatened economic security of America's working families. Workers are facing unprecedented attacks on their wages and pension, skyrocketing health care costs and fuel prices and jobs leaving for foreign shores. In my mind, this assault on the American Dream is damaging our country as much as any foreign threat.
Our country is only as strong as its citizens. That is why I find it so abhorrent that our government caters to, and defends, corporations at the expense of working Americans. Our democratic government was setup by our founding fathers to defend us from the tyranny of the "moneyed" interests. But instead of defending us, our elected representatives cater to Big Business and those who make the biggest contributions to their campaigns.
Just as our nation is only as strong as its citizens, our union is only as strong as its members. Thankfully, as union members, Teamsters are better able to weather the current anti-worker environment sweeping over our land. Union workers are better able to hold onto their benefits then their nonunion counterparts. Today, 86 percent of union jobs provide health insurance benefits, compared with 59 percent of nonunion jobs. Last year, nearly 50 million American went without health care as the percentage of workers who receive insurance dropped from 69 percent to 60 percent between 2000 and 2003.
Safety on the Job
Unions guarantee better safety and health for workers on the job. The recent deaths at the Sago Mine and others in West Virginia reminded us of risks people must take in this country to feed their families. But those risks are greatly reduced when workers-not just the corporate bottom line-determine safety standards. It's no coincidence that 17 of the 18 coal miners killed since January 1 worked in nonunion mines. Truly, the union difference can be a matter of life and death.
Teamsters have continued to lobby Congress on behalf of our rail members and further safety protections. It may take Congress forcing the rail corporations to educate their employees about evacuation procedures and other safety and security measures. You are the most valuable asset the railroads have for security and they should honor that. After all, the railroads success has been the result of your and some of your families' decades hard work.
This year, Teamsters succeeded in convincing Congressional legislators that it was in the best interests of the employees of the Class 1 railroads to bargain with our Rail Labor Bargaining Coalition, and not go into federal mediation. The rail carriers wanted to avoid bargaining with our Coalition because, for the first time, several rail unions are bargaining as one. The Rail Labor Bargaining Coalition, consisting of seven rail unions, has brought a renewed strength to rail labor. The rail carriers may not like our solidarity, but it's the best way to get the strongest contract.
James P. Hoffa
© 2006 Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen