Hoffa Scolds AFSCME, SEIU on Gephardt Snub

Posted December 5, 2003 at 6:16pm

Teamsters union President James Hoffa lashed out Friday at two top peers in organized labor over their recent endorsement of Vermont Gov. Howard Dean (D) for president, casting it as a decision sharply at odds with the interests of the public-sector employees they represent.

“I believe it’s pointless for the family of labor to waste its valuable resources this election season merely to put a pro-privatization President in the White House. We’ve already got one,” Hoffa, a supporter of Rep. Richard Gephardt (D-Mo.), wrote in a strongly worded letter to Service Employees International Union President Andrew Stern and Gerald McEntee, president of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees.

The letter represents Hoffa’s first direct response to the duo’s endorsement of Dean last month, a move that represented a major setback for Gephardt’s presidential campaign.

Hoffa had been the first major union president to endorse in the presidential contest, when he threw his support behind Gephardt over the summer.

Hoffa’s attack comes just days after Stern and McEntee demanded that Gephardt dismiss longtime aide Joyce Aboussie, amid revelations that the Missouri-based aide threatened to seek retaliation against unions that break with Gephardt in the state. Aboussie subsequently issued an apology.

In his letter Hoffa lashes out at Dean for what he contended was a record of efforts to promote “privatizing government jobs at both the state and federal levels.”

Hoffa attached two pieces of official correspondence, from the 1990s, in which Dean appeared to back at least basic steps toward private contracting of government business, which is anathema to organized labor.

“It is because of [labor’s] commitment to public sector employees that the Teamsters removed Dr. Howard Dean from consideration during our presidential endorsement process,” Hoffa said in the letter.

He added, “Instead of attacking a longtime friend of labor, Dick Gephardt, you may want to demand from your candidate a public renunciation of the concrete positions he has taken against the interests of public employees, as well as an apology to those who have suffered at the hands of his policies.”