Can 40 Year Teamsters Call Themselves Teamsters?

In January 2023 opened its virtual doors to give Teamster members, officers and supporters a place where they could share information and opinion about anything related to the union. Members are encouraged to register anonymously so that criticism of leadership happens in an honest way without fear of retaliation. Teamsterlink shares many if not most of the union’s PR releases and, unlike the IBT’s official publications and media platforms, members can comment on everything and comment they do, creating dozens of discussions along the way.

Teamsterlink was the first to report on the reaction to President O’Brien’s trip to Mar-a-Lago and the subsequent $45,000 (the maximum allowable) contribution to the RNC. Teamsterlink members reported on the dozens of staffers (reports of up to 180 people) fired on day one of the new administration by email with no warning, no severance and healthcare cut immediately. Not exactly the kind of thing you would expect from a union, is it? But teamsterlink also published comments from those that puzzlingly found this mass discharge of workers acceptable. Our objective has been to allow members to express even bizarre opinions without censorship.

This free speech has not gone unnoticed by the phony reformers that occupy the IBT Building in Washington DC. The O’Brien IBT realized this was not just rank and file teamsters’ members but also teamster officers who were contributing to the forum, officers capable of forming an opposition slate. O’Brien has apparently considered this a significant challenge to his PR operation particularly since the three operators of the forum site are Teamster retirees, former officers and long term, nationally recognized activists. When unleashing an army of trolls just increased the discussion as word of the forum spread, the IBT shifted their response to a legal strategy.

Nixon Peabody is a law firm that brags about their ability to bust-unions. They have impressive clients, including Donald J Trump, a list of union hating corporations, anti-union politicians and Sean O’Brien and the International Brotherhood of Teamsters. Nixon Peabody on behalf of the IBT is claiming ownership of the word Teamster and virtually any extension of that word. On behalf of the IBT their demanding teamsterlink cease and desist, threatening legal action knowing we could never match the resources of the IBT. This claim is being made now even though there are literally dozens of examples of the word “Teamster” and the teamster logo being use for decades throughout the US and Canada.

Case in point. Teamsters for a Democratic Union for decades and until they endorsed Sean O’Brien for President was considered the conscience of the labor movement and the watchdog of the IBT. How things have changed. As one teamsterlink poster said “there has never been a time in my membership where there is less accountability to the membership of the union then right now.” Teamsters for a Democratic Union, once considered the watchdog is now the propaganda wing of the O’Brien IBT. Ignoring any controversies and apologizing for everything from O’Brien’s “mistake” in taking credit for 206,000 nonexistent new members to justifying the $2.9 million settlement of a racial discrimination case involving 13 fired organizers of color. Has TDU been threatened for use of the word “Teamsters” in Teamsters for a Democratic Union? They’ve used the word and logo for decades as have many other entities. Yet only teamsterlink has been singled out demanding we cease and desist.

Old Teamster hands are really not surprised by any of this, we know who Sean O’Brien is. The forum creators have more than a combined 100 years of membership in the Teamsters, we’ve seen plenty. Now we see wholesale firings, crawling down to Mar-a-Lago to kiss the Trump ring, lying about growth, hiring PR firms to “sell” contracts to members and now hiring union-busters to threaten and intimidate retirees and stifle free speech.

Labor movement supporters around the country applauded the election of a “reformer” when O’Brien was elected in 2021. There were high hopes that the new Teamsters could lead a labor revival. One has to wonder how long it will take for the Sara Nelsons, the Bernie Sanders, the well-meaning progressives to understand what’s happening at the Teamsters and finally admit, they all got played.

Tom Leedham has been a Teamster since 1977 and has served at every level of Teamster leadership. He was a candidate for Teamster President opposing Hoffa in three elections in 1998, 2001 and 2006. Tim Sylvester is a 42 year member of Teamster Local 804 where he was shop steward, organizer, convention delegate and two term President. He was a candidate for General Secretary Treasurer in 2016. Bill Zimmerman is a 36 year retired Teamster who is still active. Bill served as a union Steward, Vice President and President of Teamsters Local 206. Bill was the host of KBOO Labor Radio for thirteen years.