The Teamsters union, which has yet to officially endorse a U.S. presidential candidate, last week met with Green Party candidate Ralph Nader and called for Nader and Reform Party candidate Pat Buchanan to be allowed to participate in presidential debates.
At a joint press conference with Nader, Teamsters President James P. Hoffa said that the Teamsters union has met with most of the presidential candidates. "The American people should have the same opportunity as we have had
to hear the views of all major presidential candidates," he said, saying the Democrats and Republicans have shut Nader and Buchanan out of the debate process.
Hoffa said that neither Democratic hopeful Al Gore nor Republican George W. Bush has taken strong enough stands on trade and other important labor issues. He called for the Commission on Presidential Debates to sponsor a debate specifically dedicated to addressing worker issues and globalization.
Although the AFL-CIO has endorsed Gore, the Teamsters and the United Auto Workers have thus far declined to do so, largely because of Gore's position in favor of free trade, especially the recent liberalization of trade with China and the North American Free Trade Agreement.
Nader is calling to renegotiate NAFTA, a fact that has the Teamsters' interest. During a meeting with the Teamsters General Executive Board last week, according to published reports, Nader told union representatives, "You are driving along in Maine or Minnesota or Illinois, looking in the rearview mirror, and there's a big Mexican truck bearing down on you with a driver who doesn't have to meet the same standards in reality that U.S. truck drivers have to meet."
Observers note that Nader and the Teamsters make strange bedfellows, indeed. A commentary in the Chicago Tribune pointed out that Nader is a long-time advocate of clean air and water, yet the Teamsters are associated with polluting diesel trucks. In the mid-1970s, Nader was instrumental in the formation of the now-defunct Professional Drivers Council,or PROD, an insurgent Teamster group. And Public Citizen, a Nader operation, represents Teamsters for a Democratic union, a successor of PROD that detests Hoffa.
Hoffa says the union is not in any hurry to choose a candidate to endorse, and in fact the Teamsters may not make any presidential endorsement.
Earlier this year the union met with Pat Buchanan, who promised to name Hoffa to his cabinet if elected.
For more on the press conference, visit the Teamtsers web site.