Jim Hoffa and I go at it at the DNC in Charlotte.

Article by Paul L. Gleiser

Jim Hoffa is the son of the infamous Jimmy Hoffa, who disappeared in July 1975 while trying to regain power in the Teamsters union following his release from prison on fraud and corruption charges. Like father, like son, Jim Hoffa is the General President of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters. We put some direct questions to Mr. Hoffa here on Radio Row at the Democratic National Convention.

Some of those questions he didn’t much like. Such as, “If right-to-work laws such as the one we have in Texas are so bad, why are workers coming to Texas and why is Texas doing so well as compared to the rest of the nation.”

Mr. Hoffa is an old-school liberal Democrat with an old-school view on the role of labor. It would have been fun to have had the opportunity to go back and forth on the issues we both raised over an extended discussion. However, the way it works on Radio Row at the political conventions is that you get just a few minutes.

But with some time do do a little homework, here are some specific responses to Mr. Hoffa’s statements in the video above.

At 1:18 in the video above, I take him to task about right-to-work laws, stating that Texas is both a right-to-work state and economically healthy as compared to most of the other states in the union. Mr. Hoffa responds by citing Texas’s low college graduation rates but he doesn’t show the connection between union membership and academic success. It is true that Texas’s academic achievement leaves much to be desired. But it it hard to argue that this is because of low union membership. A quick review of the data at collegecompletionchronicle.com shows that while Texas ranks 33rd out of 50 states plus the District of Columbia, right-to-work states like Virginia, Iowa and Florida rank well ahead of solid union states like New York, Michigan and Wisconsin when it comes to college graduation rates.

At 2:58, speaking on the subject of the desperation of workers he cites the fact that people are going to North Dakota to work in the oil fields. The statement implies that such work is being taken as a last resort. But workers in North Dakota apparently don’t share that concern. A scan of listings at ndoiljobs.com shows openings in North Dakota for blue collar workers with compensation packages in excess of $75,000 per year. North Dakota currently has the lowest unemployment rate of any state in the union and workers are in huge demand. Apparently going to North Dakota to do oil field work is a better deal for a lot of workers than working in a unionized job somewhere else.

At 3:20 I ask him why union membership is down to just seven percent of private sector employment. He answers by saying that it is considerably higher in the “key states” like New York, California, Michigan and Wisconsin. What he doesn’t say is that the unemployment rates in these four states are all above the national average and that all of these “key states” either lost population between 2000 and 2010 or grew at rates much lower than the population growth of the United States as a whole. And which state grew fastest between 2000 and 2010? Texas — with a nearly 4.4 million person population gain.

Throughout the rest of the interview, I take him to task when he claims that the Republicans want to “eliminate Social Security,” “eliminate Medicare,” and “get rid of nationa radio.” On the subject of public radio (NPR) I point out that Romney has never said he wants to get rid of it, he simply wants to end federal subsidy of it. And there was no time to get into the debate revolving around the fact that “public broadcasting” was established to ensure “diversity of programming”  when there were only three television stations and a newspaper in most markets. It can be argued that the Internet, cable TV, and satellite TV and radio work to provide much more diversity than single entities such as PBS and NPR can provide.

Bottom line: I disagree with Jim Hoffa on very nearly everything (except for the fact that Texas’s educational attainment in fact needs work but that has nothing to do with union membership).

Leave a Reply