- The Washington Times - Wednesday, August 2, 2000

PHILADELPHIA — A dozen prominent Republicans spent two hours trying to woo Teamsters President James P. Hoffa Jr. at a reception yesterday, hoping to win an endorsement or at least prevent the labor organization from backing Democratic presidential candidate Al Gore.
Sen. Ben Nighthorse Campbell from Colorado, Sen. Orrin G. Hatch from Utah, Rep. Thomas M. Davis III from Virginia, and about 10 others joined Republican National Committee Chairman Jim Nicholson in feting Mr. Hoffa. It was the first time in 20 years a GOP convention has hosted the union.
The 1.5 million-strong International Brotherhood of Teamsters and the United Auto Workers abstained when the AFL-CIO labor federation endorsed Mr. Gore. Key states like Ohio, Michigan and Pennsylvania are rich in members of those two unions.
Mr. Hoffa said he plans to make a decision about an endorsement — if any — around Labor Day, after also attending the Democratic convention.
Mr. Nicholson talked about basic Republican tenets and said those will help working families.
"The Republican Party and Gov. George W. Bush are the only hope for working Americans to send less taxes to Washington and save for their children's education, to feel assured that their Social Security will be truly secure, and to be able to afford prescription drugs," Mr. Nicholson said.
Mr. Hoffa spent his time talking about union issues such as trade relations with China and keeping substandard Mexican trucks off American roads.
He singled out the Republicans in Congress who voted for Teamsters' interests on those issues.
"I was so impressed with Chris Smith, and all the different people we met — Frank Wolf, and Peter King, and everybody else who worked with us on those important issues. We found common ground," Mr. Hoffa said.
Mr. Daivs said the meeting was productive, even if Republicans and Teamsters differ on some issues.
"We're talking about the things we have in common. The majority of our members are for free trade and our leadership is for free trade. But there are Democrats who are for free trade running against Republicans who are not," Mr. Davis said. "What he's signaled here is a willingness to look across party lines."
Republicans said when Teamsters see the pictures of Republicans with Mr. Hoffa, that alone will convince some members who were on the fence to vote for Mr. Bush.
"That picture is what it's all about," said Scott W. Reed, the man who put the meeting yesterday together.
The Teamsters have endorsed Republicans before, including Ronald Reagan, Dwight D. Eisenhower, George Bush and Richard M. Nixon.
Edward F. Keyser Jr., secretary-treasurer for Teamsters Local 500 in Philadelphia, said the meeting showed common ground can be found, and he agreed with Mr. Hoffa that the Teamsters are ready to look across party lines.
"You have to take [individual] politicians — what are they going to do for us, and are they going to be supportive of our issues," he said.
He said the endorsement can make a difference for Teamsters members.
Still, it may be a hard sell for the rank and file.
One union protester, though not a Teamster, standing outside the convention center, said it doesn't matter where the leadership goes.
"We're voting for Gore. It's pretty cut and dry," said the man.

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