Local Union 243 Fall Dinner Meeting
Livonia, Michigan
October 22, 2000

Thank you, Jim [Cianciolo], for that kind introduction. You know, "Cinci," Greg Lowran and Leon Cooper have provided outstanding leadership.

The members of Local Union 243 can be proud of their leaders and officers. They work on your behalf. I must say, it's so good to be back here in my home state of Michigan.

You know, when many of us met in Las Vegas last month, we talked about the role of unity in the Teamsters Union. Unity is an essential part of what we do. It's unity in action. It's unity in collective bargaining. Unity in organizing. Unity in politics.

We've all learned the hard way that without unity, action is impossible. With it, the possibilities are limitless.

Unity has brought us stronger contracts-and made us a stronger union.

When my administration took office, our union had deep divisions that weakened its ability to serve our membership. It was brother against brother, sister against sister, local union against local union and joint council against joint council.

Employers, sensing blood in the water, started circling us with an eye toward making a kill. But we set about healing the wounds and moving forward. We refused to be shark bait.

We reached out to all segments of our union to achieve the unity that is our lifeblood.

In that spirit, I appointed Greg Lowran to the national panel looking into Worldwide Logistics after Local Union 243 filed a grievance against UPS for outsourcing work. I also appointed Leon Cooper to the Central Region, and former UPS steward John Swiantech as a DRIVE representative.

Our united Teamsters today are winning better contracts, receiving higher wages, getting stronger pensions, organizing new members.

Just look at what our united union has accomplished.

When we achieved total victory in the carhaul struggle-that was unity.

When organized labor sponsored a rally on Capitol Hill to say "NO" to PNTR for China, and more than 6,000 rank-and-file Teamsters, on a work day, at their own expense-that was unity.

When we forced UPS to keep its promises and deliver thousands of new full-time jobs-that was unity.

When after years of stalemate, we brought home a good contract for the flight attendants at Northwest Airlines-that was unity.

When we faced down a lockout at AWG and restored dignity to our members-that was unity.

When we stood by our brothers and sisters at the Detroit News and Free Press-that was unity.

And today, when we stand by more than 1,800 brave men and women fighting an epic battle at Overnite Transportation-that is unity.

We must draw on our unity to mobilize for the coming election. The Overnite struggle is a good example of why the stakes are so very high.

Much has been made of the Republican ticket's ties to Big Oil. Less well known is the fact the Dick Cheney is a director of Union Pacific-the parent company of Overnite. What was George W. Bush thinking? His running mate is part of an outlaw company that is one of the worst labor law violators in American history.

Unfortunately, the Republican ticket has become captive to the forces of reaction-those who want to turn the clock back to the 1920s.

Only by winning the White House and taking back the Congress can we stop efforts by Big Business to:

  • Dismantle programs to increase workplace safety;
  • Deny the right to organize and bargain collectively;
  • Ignore dislocated workers;
  • Block equal pay; and,
  • Weaken pensions.

Al Gore is a long-time friend of working families. In seven years as a U.S. senator, he voted with working families 88 percent of the time. He stood with unions and their members to protect workplace health and safety, community wage standards, Medicare and Social Security. He helped to block attempts to bring back company unions and destroy the 40-hour week.

Gore opposed "paycheck deception" initiatives that would have silenced the political voice of working people. He steadfastly defended the freedom of working people to join unions and have a voice at work.

We cannot stand idly by while the forces of reaction try to roll back the gains achieved over the past century.

That is why I ask you to volunteer your time and energy in the next 16 days to our get-out-the-vote effort.

Stewards will be key to spreading the message to our members. This year, you really do have the power to make a difference-a powerful difference in people's lives.

Whether you man a phone bank, walk a precinct or put up lawn signs, you will help educate your union brothers and sisters and greatly improve our chances of victory.

There's one more thing I'd like to touch on.

Regardless of what happens on November 7, we have another struggle on our hands-the upcoming bargaining for the 2002 UPS contract.

I promise you tonight: This will be a strong, rank-and-file driven effort. We are going to put together a dynamic, member-based contract campaign, similar to what was done in the successful 1997 UPS strike.

In the coming months, I will be traveling across the country, talking to members and getting their input.

We will fight for increased wages, pensions and benefits. We will close the loopholes that allow management to do our work. We will monitor UPS for any signs of outsourcing and double-breasting. We will fight to limit mandatory overtime, which prevents our members from living normal lives.

To be successful, we will need the stewards to be the union's eyes and ears. Communication must flow from the shop to the top-not just the other way around.

That, too, will be a clear demonstration of our unity-all of us working together, helping each other, moving forward as one mighty union.

With unity, everything is possible. UNITED WE WIN!


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