When the first transport leaves for the moon, a labor reporter commented recently, James R. Hoffa would like to have its crew wearing Teamster buttons. If nothing is done to curb his power, it its more than likely that he will get his wish.
Last week's decision by a federal court, ordering the dissolution of the board of monitors assigned to clean up the Teamsters Union, ended one of the only restraints on Hoffa's designs.
His union firmly behind him, Hoffa feels ready to begin a mass organizing drive that would extend Teamster jurisdiction even further, and include thousands of workers in key industries with little or no connection with trucking. Though he envisions a combination of vast size and economic influence, Hoffa denies that he could with a single strike order halt all trucking in the country; it wouldn't be good business, he says.
Notwithstanding the dangers inherent in the concentration of such power in any single individual, Hoffa's past activities make him a poor candidate indeed to bear the responsibility. The Federal government has not stopped him. If he is not to take upon his shoulders the mantle of Protector of the Economy, united labor and intelligent management must act first. The AFL-CIO has so far shown little concern for the Hoffa threat. Though it has refused to readmit the Teamsters, the general enthusiasm for "ethical practices" so outspoken three years ago has largely waned.
What the AFL-CIO must do, however, is not to compromise with shady operations, but to intensify its own membership drive, which has lagged alarmingly in recent years. Management, too, would do well to be more receptive to moderate AFL-CIO organizing proposals so as to reduce the appeal of the more aggressive (but less ethical) Teamsters. The AFL-CIO is no small operation, it is true; but it is unquestionably more democratic and less monolithic than the Teamsters.
The cocky boss of the Teamsters has indeed hitched his wagon to a star. Only by offering unorganized labor something better than the economic security of benevolent despotism which Hoffa offers can the AFL-CIO unhorse him.