Teamsters Essay, Research Paper
The strike organized by Teamsters, labor activists who have striked against Safeway s distribution centers across the nation earlier last year, have reduced local Bay Area Safeway s net income in the months of October and November. In recent analysis, the 47-day strike has cost Safeway companies in the west coast $66.7 million in the fourth quarter earnings. This event further represents the ongoing strikes in the nation for the better of laborer’s rights. Since the rise of North America s working families into the middle class, labor unions united for rights of workers through collective bargaining, the protections of health, and the establishment of dignity in the workplace. Work was scarce and jobs insecure and workers remained unorganized and exploited. In 1900, the typical 12-18 hours a day, seven days a week for an average wage of $2.00 per day. A worker was expected not only to carry his load, but to assume liability for bad accounts and for lost or damaged merchandise. In response to these appalling conditions, groups of laborers started forming in the late 19th century. By 1898, the activity of unions caught the interest of American Federation of Labor (AFL) leader Samuel Gompers, who called on the locals to create a national teamsters union under the umbrella of the AFL. Gomper’s joined forces with Teamsters National Union to create the International Brotherhood of Teamsters (IBT) in Niagara Falls, N.Y. in 1903. Cornelius Shea was elected its first General President. The early IBT struggled. Labor laws were nonexistent and companies used anti-trust laws against unions. In 1905, the IBT backed a bloody strike at the Chicago-based Montgomery Ward Company. The strike lasted more than 100 days, tragically took 21 lives, and cost about $1 million. In the end, Montgomery Ward s cutthroat tactics broke the strike. In the face of this early setback, the union made a change.
U.S. Teamsters embraced President Franklin D. Roosevelt. FDR fought for working families and won passage of a series of legislative initiatives designed to pull the country out of the Depression. He relied heavily on U.S. labor leaders, especially IBT President Dan Tobin, to make his case.
The National Recovery Administration (NRA) was the crux of Roosevelt s plan. It established minimum wages and maximum hours of labor for each industry. Hours were reduced to spread employment over more workers. FDR also won passage of the landmark National Labor Relations Act. It codified in law workers right to collective bargaining and protected them from management interference or intimidation aimed at union activity.
Teamsters were an integral part of the Allies victory in World War II, contributing on the battlefield and on the home front. In 1942, President Roosevelt asked Teamsters General President Dan Tobin to travel to Great Britain and report back on how British unions were helping to win the war. On his return, Tobin urged the U.S. labor movement to emulate the British approach: suspending all labor discord in the face of the Axis threat to world freedom.
Despite some legislative assaults, such as the enactment of the Landrum-Griffin Act, the Teamsters grew in size and power from the late 50s to the late 70s. Unions grew and workers prospered as the middle-class reaped the benefits of the New Deal, the post-war surge and collective bargaining. The union used its position to better the lives of hard-working Teamster members. Seeking to expand their political clout, the Teamsters established D.R.I.V.E. (Democrat, Republican, and Independent Voter Education) in 1959. D.R.I.V.E. soon became America s largest Political Action Committee (PAC).
By 1973, the economy began to slow, but the Teamsters bucked the trends and continued to better the wages, security, and working conditions of the membership.
In 1997 the Teamsters successful strike at UPS sparked a resurgence in the labor movement. Then in 1998, a new era in Teamster history opened. Under the banner of restoring Teamster pride and unity, James P. Hoffa won a landslide victory. At the joint council and local level, the Hoffa message turned into quick action. It was time to pull together, restore the pride and organize.
Within a year, the Teamsters could be proud of many accomplishments. Bankruptcy was no longer a danger, a landmark national carhaul agreement won the support of 80 percent of the members, and the beginnings of an in-house anti-corruption effort had been established.
This last accomplishment may well be the era s most important. After a decade of supervision by the Justice Department, the IBT is ready to police its own affairs. The new program features a strong code of ethics, written and enforced by Teamsters.