January 12, 2012
By Bendix Anderson, LaborPress Senior Editor
This November, George Miranda became the first Puerto Rican ever elected to the executive board of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters. He is now IBT’s Vice President at Large, in addition to being President of Teamsters Joint Council 16.
But the election shows more than just support for Miranda, who won on the same ticket as IBT President Jim Hoffa. Hoffa received 60 percent of the vote. The election shows support for Hoffa’s negotiating strategy, which is currently waging a long fight against Sotheby’s, but which has also made some controversial concessions to employers in the freight industry.
The Teamsters are fighting hard against Sotheby’s, which reportedly earned record profits of over $680 million over the year that ended last summer. Art handlers at Sotheby’s have been locked out since July. The wealthy auction house wants its art handlers, represented by Professional Art Handlers Local 814, to sign a contract allowing Southby’s to hire temporary non-union workers in addition to other wage and benefits cuts.
“They are the poster boys for the 1 percent,” said Miranda. “But they want to bust the union.”
Opposition candidates for the Teamsters leadership say the union has offered too many concessions to companies like UPS, which announced rising third quarter profits, thanks to “increased pricing, cost cutting and technology improvements,” despite flat sales volume, according to news reports.
Miranda counters that in a tough economy, Teamsters have been willing to negotiate and even offer some concessions in industries beset by consolidation. “You want somebody in place who understands the art of the possible,” said Miranda.
Miranda also represents the growing diversity of the union, as the first Puerto Rican ever elected to the IBT executive board. Roughly a third of the Teamsters members are now Hispanics, a significant increase compared to just a decade ago.
“It shows the significance of the Hispanic population, both in the U.S. and in the union,” said Miranda.