The Teamster rank-and-file movement is spreading worker power and making the most of labor’s movement moment, writes longtime Teamsters for a Democratic Union organizer Ken Paff.

by Ken Paff, Jacobin

Teamsters for a Democratic Union (TDU), the forty-seven-year-old rank-and-file organization within one of the country’s largest and most important unions, is having a “movement moment.” TDU, where I worked as an organizer for many years, is helping propel Teamster militancy and a broader labor insurgency.   

TDU’s theory of change is that reforms that open up the labor movement to member involvement build worker power. It’s a participatory democracy model that has sometimes been a hard sell both with workers and on the Left. But now this model is spreading.

After six months failed negotiations the teamsters union strikes the Golden Empire Transit District. Union members walk the picket line in the extreme heat.

In 2021, United Auto Worker (UAW) militants took a page from the TDU playbook. In the wake of a major corruption scandal among union leaders, UAW members won the right to vote for their leaders, elected new leadership, and took on the Big Three automakers. UAW president Shawn Fain told the TDU Convention in November 2023, “There is no stand-up strike without TDU.”  

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