Chat Transcript: Teamsters Pres. James Hoffa

ByABC News
August 15, 2000, 5:31 PM

Aug. 15 -- Presidential candidates court many groups for votes, and the way unions vote has historically decided elections.

This year's election is no exception. The United Auto Workers and the Teamsters broke away from the AFL-CIO's endorsement of Al Gore for president, citing the loss of members and contracts, global competition and support for the North American Free Trade Agreement as reasons.

James Hoffa, president of the Teamsters, has announced his group will endorse the week before Labor Day.Will Gore get the Teamsters vote, or will his support of foreign trade cost him the endorsement? Teamsters President James Hoffa joined us live from the Democratic Convention for an online chat. A transcript of the chat appears below.

ABCNEWS' Bettina Gregory at 5:05pm ET welcomes Teamsters President James Hoffa. Thanks for joining us.

ABCNEWS' Bettina Gregory at 5:05pm ET

Can you clarify whether you have endorsed a candidate at this point?

James Hoffa at 5:05pm ET

We have made no endorsements to date. We are looking to an endorsement just after Labor Day. We are polling our members, because it is our belief that it is the members we must listen to. We also intend to get input from local union officials and the Teamsters Executive Board, and will make an endorsement just after Labor Day.

ABCNEWS' Bettina Gregory at 5:06pm ET

U.S.A. Today reports that the Teamsters have decided not to endorse a third-party candidate. So this means the field of candidates is down to a choice of two?

James Hoffa at 5:06pm ET

That's right. This is part of our process. We have eliminated the third-party candidates because they cannot win this race. We intend our endorsement to be very meaningful and to affect the upcoming election. That is why we are not going to endorse any of the third-party candidates.

ABCNEWS' Bettina Gregory at 5:06pm ET

This question comes from John:

John Dobyns at 5:07pm ET

Mr. Hoffa: I can't understand why the Teamsters would want to endorse Al Gore, who for eight years has been vice president of an administration without a clear energy policy, and who thinks it is okay that gas prices as the same as those in Europe. This would cause havoc with the trucking industry and its workers.

James Hoffa at 5:08pm ET

We know that we must have good gas prices, around $1.15 to $1.30. We will have input into whatever administration we endorse, regarding fuel prices. We at the Teamsters are especially aware of the impact it has on the trucking companies that employ hundreds of thousands of Teamsters. We will work to lower gas prices.

Kevin_Local282 at 5:08pm ET

President Hoffa,

Congratulations on all your good work bringing back Teamster pride. We really appreciate it in the rank and file. But I can't understand why you went to the Republican convention. Those guys vote against striker protection laws and support "right to work" laws. I don't think they're good for Teamsters. So why did you go to their convention and endorse a union-buster like Rep. Hoekstra?