Reformers Win Teamsters Elections

Matthew G. Saroff
3 min readNov 22, 2021

With James Hoffa retiring, there was a contested election for the first time in years, and the reform slate won.

One hopes this presages union that better serves its members, but as Nietzsche said, “If you stare into the Abyss long enough the Abyss stares back at you,” so we will see if this results in a more responsive and more activist union:

A new administration will soon take the helm of the 1.3 million-member Teamsters union. The Teamsters United slate swept to victory in this week’s vote count, beating out their rivals 2 to 1.

It’s the first time in almost a quarter-century that a coalition backed by Teamsters for a Democratic Union has taken the driver’s seat in the international union.

The incoming president is Sean O’Brien, leader of New England Joint Council 10. He says his top priorities are to unite the rank and file to take on employers, organize Amazon and other competitors in the union’s core industries, and withdraw support from politicians who don’t deliver on union demands.


The challengers rode a wave of fury over concessions and weak contracts, especially at UPS, the union’s biggest bargaining unit, where TDU and other Teamsters United supporters had campaigned for a no vote on a contract that would create a lower-paid second tier of drivers. After a majority voted no, Hoffa forced the deal through anyway. TDU’s demand to repeal the “two-thirds rule” that let him do it became a campaign issue; reformers got it done at this year’s convention.

Meanwhile UPSers have lived out the consequences of the bad deal: two-tier wages and another five years of rampant forced overtime and harassment from supervisors. “It doesn’t matter where we went when we were campaigning — that’s what everybody was furious about,” said Eugene Braswell, a New York City Local 804 UPS driver and TDU steering committee member who has been to Baltimore, New Jersey, and Philadelphia campaigning for Teamsters United.

Here’s hoping that the new leadership doesn’t, “Go native.” If they do, this will be squandering a once in a generation opportunity.