- The Washington Times - Saturday, November 17, 2001


James P. Hoffa claimed victory yesterday in his re-election bid to lead the Teamsters and pledged that the union will work to be "free of any ethical violations."

Mr. Hoffa had 65 percent of the vote to 35 percent for challenger Tom Leedham, of Portland, Ore., with most of the votes counted by yesterday afternoon, said election administrator Bill Wertheimer.

"The membership has spoken loud and clear," Mr. Hoffa said at a news conference. "They want a union that is not beholden to corporate interests or any political party. They want an independent and free Teamsters union."

In a concession statement, Mr. Leedham said Mr. Hoffa "will have a chance to live up to his promises."

"Outspent 10 to 1 by an incumbent with a famous name, we have lost," he said.

Mr. Hoffa said he welcomed Mr. Leedham's supporters to join with him "because at the end of the day, we are all Teamsters."

He said the union is ready to govern its own affairs after 12 years of government supervision that has cost the Teamsters $100 million.

The Teamsters in 1989 agreed to government oversight to settle a federal racketeering lawsuit. But after promising a corruption-free union, Mr. Hoffa's administration was embarrassed last spring when his special personal assistant and a Chicago leader were charged in a federal kickback scandal in Las Vegas. They have denied any wrongdoing.

"We will have an ethics administrator on board. We will have ex-FBI agents to work for the union to make sure it remains free of any ethical violations," Mr. Hoffa said. "It's a matter of sitting down with the government attorneys and negotiating a fair agreement so this union can be returned to its membership."

Mr. Hoffa has said the gloomy economic picture means hard times ahead for labor unions. Besides truck drivers, the Teamsters' 1.4 million members include workers at rental car companies, airlines, Disney World and catering companies for airlines.

Analysts say Mr. Hoffa's second term comes during the toughest bargaining climate since the 1980s.

Early next year the Teamsters will negotiate with United Parcel Service Inc. to renew the largest collective-bargaining agreement in the nation, covering 210,000 union workers and setting the tone for the country's labor movement. The two sides last faced off during a strike in 1997.

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