Opinion: 2020 presidential candidates must share vision for labor

James Hoffa

The 2020 presidential election, now less than a year away, is arriving at a key moment in U.S. history. Workers, long the backbone of this nation, are falling behind because they’ve been ignored at the expense of corporations. Next November’s vote is an opportunity to change that and pave a path to prosperity.

But how should it be addressed? The Teamsters decided it wanted to hear from its membership on what the union should prioritize. Three months and some 22,000 surveys later (including from more than 700 Michigan Teamsters), they have made it clear:

Preserve our hard-earned pension benefits; continue to protect our legally-guaranteed rights to bargain in good faith; and enact fair trade deals that take workers’ issues under consideration.

Using that information, this union is training its members and sending them out on the campaign trail all across the country to get presidential contenders on the record about what they will do to fix pensions, strengthen collective bargaining and ensure fair trade.

The Teamsters have also gotten seven current presidential candidates thus far to do sit down interviews addressing those issues. And we’ve built a website — — where people can go and get answers directly from the mouths of the candidates themselves.

Our members can’t be easily won. Their voices, and the voices of all American workers, must be heard. That is why we have asked all of the candidates, Democrats and Republicans, to make several serious commitments to receive consideration.

Besides sitting down for interviews, the Teamsters are asking candidates to sign our pledge to support legislation that protects pensions and retirement security, strengthens the ability of workers to join a union and establishes a new trade policy that protects working people. Ten current Democratic presidential candidates have already signed.

It is not enough for candidates just to say that they stand with working people. The Teamsters will be inviting them to join us in action fighting on the front lines. The union has asked all candidates to partner with us in support of workers, whether at a strike line, an organizing committee meeting or any other true show of solidarity.

Candidates who fulfill all the requirements will be eligible to receive the Teamsters’ support. Ahead of a union endorsement, the union leadership will poll membership and survey local union leadership. From there, the General Executive Board, at the recommendation of the general president will, or will not, make an endorsement.

But before that happens, the union will host a presidential forum Dec. 7 in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, where Teamsters hope to learn more about where the candidates stand on pensions, collective bargaining, trade and other important issues to U.S. workers.

This union is optimistic that those seeking the highest office in the land are ready to stand with workers.

James Hoffa is president of the Teamsters.

Labor Voices

Labor Voices columns are written on a rotating basis by United Auto Workers President Gary Jones, Teamsters President James Hoffa, Michigan AFL-CIO President Ron Bieber and Michigan Education Association President Paula Herbart.