In-Depth Q&A With Nation's Most Powerful Union
As you might have seen on TV, Karen Finerman sat down with Teamsters president James Hoffa and asked the union chief some pretty tough questions.
And he answered every single one quite candidly.
Keep reading to find out about the major issue that has Hoffa ready to do battle in the Senate.
And on the following pages learn:
-Why unions are not to blame for the collapse of the auto industry.
-How unions may increase shareholder value.
-If the union has substantial influence at the White House.
-Why Hoffa calls his trip to China “eye-opening.”
-The first words that come to mind when Finerman says power and greed.
Hoffa’s Number One Priority:
“Employee Free Choice Act”
FINERMAN: So you talk about free choice. And one of your biggest legislative priorities has been the Employee Free Choice Act. And there’s been a lot of spin and a lot of confusion as to what is it really. Tell us in your own words, what is the Employee Free Choice Act?
HOFFA: Well it’s basically ‘card check’. It’s basically if you get a majority of people signed up – just like Canada, just like 70 other democracies in the world have ‘card check’, you take that to the employer – he recognizes you. You also have a provision in there with regards to arbitration on the first contract to make sure that the employer can’t stonewall you, you get a contract. This is basically what it is. They have it in Canada, it works. It works everywhere. So, why don’t we have it here?
FINERMAN: Well I ‘ve been seeing recently there are articles in the press saying that labor might be willing to compromise on some aspects of the Free Choice Act. Is that true? And if so, why now?
HOFFA: We’re not feeling that way. There was a certain article where it said other labor leaders are doing that. We think we’ve got to hold the feet to the fire of the people in the Senate. The battle’s in the Senate, it’s not in the House. If we don’t get it done this time, when are we gonna get it done? Next year it will be an election and they’ll say ‘This is not the time to do it.’ So we want to keep the feet to the fire of the politicians involved and try and get something that’s very very meaningful. And we’ll see where we’re at. But every day we’re working on this, and this is the number one priority of labor.
Are Unions To Blame For The Collapse Of The U.S. Auto Industry?
FINERMAN: To many people the UAW has become the scapegoat for the collapse of the U.S. auto industry. Tell us why that’s not right.
HOFFA: Well its not true. Basically we have mismanagement of the big three over many years. They bought Jaguar, they bought Volvo – they did everything wrong when they had money. They didn’t invest in their product. And that’s really the problem. It’s not hard working men and women in the UAW. But they’re the ones who have been the brunt. I mean the UAW has seen hundreds of thousands of people laid off, many of people have lost their jobs, plant closings. You know, that’s a scapegoat thing. Uh basically the problem is mismanagement not being able to basically be competitive with the imports that have come in from Japan and from Korea.
FINERMAN: They would argue that being competitive is really being a labor contract that is expensive let’s say relative to their competitors is preventing them from being competitive. How would you address that?
HOFFA: Well I don’t think it's true because basically the cars – they have basically stolen the ability to have a car that people want. And now, look at Toyota: coming out of nowhere, basically it sells as many cars as Chevrolet. Look at Hyundai. They just came in the last 8 years and they’re dominating and getting more and more of the market. Why? Smart deals, 100,000 mile warranties, doing things that the Big Three never thought of. New innovative things, new financing, you know – new different ways to do things. And they’re basically, the Big Three have been behind the curve. And that’s why they’re behind, not the UAW.
FINERMAN: So now the UAW owns a meaningful stake, they’re a big shareholder. Can they have some influence over the management of these companies?
HOFFA: Basically, they’ve got to get with it. They’ve got to come up with cars that the American people want. And basically that’s what they’ve gotta do. They’ve gotta come up with how to sell cars – to come up with longer warranties, all the little things that they see that all the other competitors are doing from Japan or Korea. Do those things – innovative things – and they will basically be able to get back into the market.
Wall St. vs Teamsters: Are Unions Good For Shareholders?
FINERMAN: Let’s talk about the unions and Wall Street. Are unions good for shareholders?