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Hoffa Addresses Congress

March 29, 2000

WASHINGTON (AP) _ Lawmakers told Teamsters President James P. Hoffa on Tuesday that he needs to quell violence surrounding the union’s efforts to organize workers at a Virginia trucking company.

Hoffa insisted the job action against Overnite Transportation Co. is peaceful.

``What’s going on down there is not helping any of us,″ said Rep. Charles Norwood, R-Ga.

The Richmond, Va.-based ground cargo company contends that 45 shootings have occurred at more than a dozen of its locations around the country. About half were reported near the Memphis, Tenn., terminal, where an Overnite driver was shot in the stomach last December. He survived.

Hoffa, appearing before a subcommittee of the House Education and the Workforce Committee, denied the Teamsters were responsible.

``It is one of the most peaceful strikes in our history,″ he insisted.

That prompted a response from Rep. Van Hilleary, R-Tenn., who said 45 shootings ``sounds pretty violent to me.″

Hoffa claimed Overnite is engaged in a ``smear campaign″ against the Teamsters to try to keep workers from unionizing. He said union organizers have been instructed not to engage in violence as they try to sign up workers.

Overnite Senior Vice President Mark Goodwin said he has police reports and other records to document the violence. He denied the company is trying to smear the Teamsters.

Overnite competes in the less-than-truckload market, consolidating small shipments. The company has terminals in the United States, Canada, Mexico, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands.

The Teamsters began organizing strike tactics against the company last October, after a five-year union-organizing campaign. Fewer than 15 percent of the company’s 13,000 employees have joined the picket lines.

Except for the Overnite problem, the lawmakers largely praised Hoffa’s one-year reign as head of the 1.4 million-member union. They offered support when Hoffa said the Teamsters should win back their independence after 11 years of oversight by the federal government. The union agreed to the oversight to avoid federal racketeering charges.

``The Teamsters should be cut loose,″ said Rep. Peter Hoekstra, R-Mich., chairman of the subcommittee on oversight and investigations. He cited the high cost to union members of paying for federal monitoring, which the union says now totals about $80 million.

Hoffa said he has been given no indication the Justice Department will step aside.

Hoffa’s father, Jimmy Hoffa, built the Teamsters into a national powerhouse but was sent to prison for jury tampering and misusing union funds. He disappeared in 1975 and is presumed a victim of organized crime.

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