Hoffa Seizes NW Airline Affiliate, Fearing Break from IBT

Intl. IBT chief James P. Hoffa tried to block a threat to his union by seizing control of the Minneapolis bargaining unit that represents 11,500 Northwest Airlines flight attendants.  On July 1, Hoffa placed Teamsters Local 2000 under trusteeship, ousting the local president and the executive board, which Hoffa said failed to oppose an organizing effort to create the Professional Flight Attendants Association (PFAA).  The Hoffa trustee, Mollie Reiley, vowed to wage a vigorous campaign against PFAA organizers.

When Hoffa was reelected president, a huge majority of Local 2000 members voted for his opponent.  Recently, 100 percent of Local 2000 delegates opposed a dues increase favored by the Hoffa administration.  In mid-June, a group of Northwest flight attendants launched a drive to form the PFAA. To trigger an election where attendants could switch from the IBT to the PFAA, organizers need about half of the flight attendants to sign election authorization cards.

Gary Helton, a Los Angeles-based flight attendant and PFAA organizer, said Hoffa’s imposition of the trusteeship “is going to cement the notion that the Northwest flight attendants have absolutely no say in how their local is run.”  Reiley strongly disagreed, arguing that Hoffa is trying to preserve the strength of the flight attendants against “a major corporation that has a long and checkered history of labor relations.  We cannot afford to be deprived of the union protections, for which so many have struggled for so long.”

The ousted president, Danny Campbell said the dismissed board members were considering their options. “We may sue the international union,” Campbell said Monday from his home in Detroit. “This is plainly a political trusteeship.”

In a five-page trustee notice, Hoffa did not make any allegations of financial impropriety. Instead, Hoffa castigated the local leaders for failing to carry out eight directives, which he claimed were needed to “take effective action to combat this threat to the very existence of Local 2000.”

The Teamsters, with 1.4 million members, have represented Northwest flight attendants for 26 years. If Local 2000 voted to leave the union, it would be the largest local decertification in recent memory, Paff said.  There’s also serious money at stake: Local 2000 members pay close to $400,000 a month in union dues, Campbell said.  [Star Tribune, Minneapolis, Minn. 7/2/02]