Charleston Gazette,

The Largest Newspaper In West Virginia.

Hall Begins Teamsters campaign

By Robert Woodrum

April 6, 1998

By Paul J. Nyden

More than 550 enthusiastic Teamsters and other union members packed the Kanawha City Teamsters' Hall Sunday afternoon to hear Ken Hall announce he is running for general president of his union.

Many wore shirts with logos from Yellow Freight, Coca-Cola or United Parcel Service. Many traveled to Charleston from other states, including Illinois, Virginia, Ohio and Washington.

The 41-year-old Hall, who started his career as a Pennzoil worker from Yawkey, Lincoln County, might end up heading North America's largest union. The International Brotherhood of Teamsters has more than 1.4 million members.

"On this historic day," said John McCormick, "the 18,000 members of my local union are going to be very happy to discover Ken Hall is running for general president."

McCormick traveled to Charleston from Chicago, where he heads Local 705, the Teamsters' third-largest local union. In 1993, Hall helped McCormick negotiate a local contract with United Parcel Service.

Before reformers took over the Teamsters in 1991, 12 silver Continentals routinely sat in parking spaces in front of the Local 705's impressive marble building near downtown Chicago. McCormick helped sell off the expensive cars once given to union business agents.

Last summer, Hall was the union's top negotiator 200,000 workers in their successful strike against the United Parcel Service.

"The victory against UPS reversed labor's losses under Ronald Reagan," McCormick said. "All other unions supported us, donating money and food. Everyone in the labor movement was rejuvenated."

That new UPS contract Hall negotiated raised pensions by 50 percent, created 10,000 new full-time jobs, stopped subcontracting giving jobs to nonunion workers, improved health and safety and won the biggest pay hikes ever.

Hall talked about his likely opponent James P. Hoffa Jr., son of the union's most famous leader. James Hoffa Sr. spent time in prison for misappropriating union funds and was widely reputed to have Mafia ties. He disappeared under mysterious circumstances and was presumed to have been killed.

Hoffa Jr., a lawyer, never made a living as a Teamster worker, never negotiated a union contract and never won election to any local or national union office.

Hoffa Jr. lost the 1996 election to incumbent reformer Ron Carey. Hall declared his candidacy on Sunday, after a federally appointed oversight board overturned that election and barred Carey, first elected in 1991, from running again.

In throwing Carey's election out, the federal board charged that $885,000 in Teamsters union funds was given to third party groups, who then contributed similar amounts to Carey's campaign. Campaign finance irregularities, however, might also result in Hoffa's disqualification.

Hall's campaign will accept contributions only from working members of the Teamsters union.

Hall said, "We in the Teamsters are facing an historic challenge. The road of Hoffa leads backward towards division and weakness. Last summer, we showed the nation what a united Teamsters union could do."

Hall said both Carey and Hoffa backers urged him to run for the union's top position in recent weeks.

During his speech on Sunday, Hall stressed his own career as a oil-field roustabout, local union steward and local union president, before he negotiated the national UPS contract.

"To negotiate good contracts, you have to have someone who has negotiated one before," Hall said. "I have negotiated large and small contracts. I have negotiated contracts for workers in the freight, construction, dairy, bakery, laundry, petroleum, brewery and soft-drink industries."

Hall criticized the alleged mob ties of the Hoffa family. "We need someone who has fought the mob in our union and will keep them out of our union. And perhaps more important, we need someone who will keep their hands out of our members' pension funds."

Hall said the union must continue to be active in political issues that affect working families, including federal legislation about retirement benefits, overtime hours and fair-trade issues.

Hoffa's name is his only chance for victory, Hall said. "If his name was Smith or Jones, and he never worked as a Teamster, and was never elected to a union office, he would be laughed out of the race."

If Hall wins later this year, it will not be the first time a rank-and-file union member from West Virginia became the top officer of a major union.

Twenty-six years ago, in May 1972, nearly 400 rank-and-file reformers in United Mine Workers met at Wheeling College. They nominated Arnold Miller, from Cabin Creek, to run for president of the UMW.

In a federally ordered and supervised election, Miller beat incumbent Tony Boyle. After his election loss, Boyle was convicted of conspiring to assassinate Joseph "Jock" Yablonski and spent the rest of his life in federal prison.

In December 1969, Boyle defeated Yablonski for international UMW president. The U.S. Department of Labor later determined Boyle stole that election and successfully fought to have it overturned, paving the way for Miller's victory in December 1972.

Hall served as an elected member of the Lincoln County School Board between 1986 and 1992. He lives in Yawkey with his wife, Shirley, and daughter Jenna.

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