By a narrow margin, Teamsters union General President James P. Hoffa was elected for a fifth time as president of the 1.3-million-member union, according to an unofficial union tally.
Hoffa, 75, defeated Fred Zuckerman, head of Local 89 in Louisville, Ky., by 6,162 votes, capturing 51.5 percent of the total 198,778 ballots counted, according to the union tally published late Friday. Zuckerman outpolled Hoffa in the United States, but Hoffa's overwhelming margin of victory among about 12,000 Teamsters members in Canada carried the day.
Ken Hall, Hoffa's running mate and the Teamster executive who heads contract negotiations with Atlanta-based UPS Inc., was re-elected as general secretary-treasurer.
Hoffa won the presidency in 1998 after the federal government ordered a new election amid charges of improper use of campaign funds by the late Ron Carey, who was elected two years before. Hoffa won re-election in 2001, 2006, and 2011. His new term begins in March. Teamster presidents serve five-year terms. Only Daniel P. Tobin, who was president for 45 years from 1907 to 1952, has served longer than Hoffa in the union's 113-year history.
"This was a hard-fought campaign and a historically close election," Hoffa said in a statement. He predicted that 2017 would be a "watershed year" for the union and for the country, without providing details.
The battle with Zuckerman was bitter and divisive. Zuckerman runs one of the most hard-line Teamster locals. It is based in the same city as UPS' "Worldport" global air hub, and represents more UPS workers—9,300 small-package employees—than any Teamster local. In the past, the local has voted, sometimes overwhelmingly, to reject labor agreements with UPS that most other locals had gone along with.
In what amounted to a concession speech late Thursday, Zuckerman accused Hoffa and Hall of lying, failing to demonstrate any leadership vision, and engaging in scare tactics. "Hoffa and Hall claimed we were dividing the union and they tried to prevent this election," Zuckerman said. "They were dead wrong."
Zuckerman's slate, "Teamsters United," captured six seats on the union's 24-member General Executive Board.
Less than two weeks before the vote count, independent investigations officer (IIO) Joseph diGenova issued a 42-page report alleging that Hall obstructed corruption investigations by hiding and destroying thousands of union documents and emails. The Teamsters blasted the report as a politically motivated effort to interfere with the election.
The IIO is an anti-corruption position established under the settlement of a Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO) lawsuit filed against the Teamsters by the Justice Department.