This video tells the story. A man on the rise. Tim Sylvester, Presidential Candidate for The International Brotherhood of Teamsters (IBT). One of the best orators in the union I have ever witnessed. But was there a true leader behind the speeches. Teamsters Democratic Union (TDU) was backing the Tim Sylvester movement. A movement started by a unpopular “Wildcat Strike” called by then business agent Liam Russertt. The strike itself put Tim Sylvester on the national map as a fighter for the rights of the union workers. This was the picture that was packaged and sold by Teamsters Democratic Union (TDU) to its members as they began to launch the Tim Sylvester for President of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters.
Members at that time recognized the fact that Teamsters Local 804 was once again leading the charge against UPS and their aggressive managerial tactics towards employees. Leading that Local 804 was its president Tim Sylvester. The interesting thing about the one of the potential presidential candidates was Fred Zuckerman. During the same period of time Fred Zuckerman had threatened a potential strike within his Local 89, which would have cost UPS millions of dollars in its air delivery operations. Fred Zuckerman definitely had the resume to lead the I.B.T as its president. He has led several locals and displayed the FIRE many felt Sylvester had.
The one glaring fact that was omitted in touting Tim Sylvester as a fighter for the union man, was the fact that Tim did not lead the “Maspeth 250 Walkout” nor respond to the situation immediately. Tim in fact had disappeared from the forefront in the dealing with the situation as UPS had made the decision to fire all 250 drivers. This would take place over a period of time, but the terminations were coming and not sit down had been scheduled in dealing with the situation in a timely manner. Others eventually resolved the situation, yet Tim attempted to receive credit for resolving the situation. Many drivers from the Maspeth facility felt Ken Hall was instrumental in them returning back to work. A ceremony honoring Ken Hall was held by the a group of local 804 members. The group that organized the ceremony eventually became the platform used by the 804 Strong slate to announce their candidacy as a group to take over Teamsters Local 804.
Fred Zuckerman actually threatened to strike which forced the International Brotherhood of Teamsters to act. The combination of the “Maspeth 250” firings not being resolved, it being a contract year, and Zuckerman’s potential strike caused newspapers and investors to question UPS’s ability to deal with labor issues. The two issues forced both sides, the union and UPS, to come together to resolve both issues. Once these issues were settled and contracts signed, Tim Sylvester was able to parlay is national stature among teamsters as the candidate who would lead the charge against James Hoffa. The problem with Tim was the fact he too focused on his national campaign and not truly understanding the issues confronting his own local. The chief issue amongst the members within his own local was that many felt that if Tim did not deal with the ‘Maspeth 250” in a manner a true leader would have been expected. This issue was overlooked by other members as the were eying the possibility of Sylvester being the IBT President and better serving Local 804 in that capacity. Not directly dealing with the issue of the wildcat strike and the aftermath would have repercussion for Tim and his team as they would eventually lose the 2015 elections to 804 Strong.
Combine this lack of understanding within his own local and at the same time being advised by the Teamsters Democratic Union did not help in his decision making as he also had a nasty split with one of his business agents, Liam Russertt. The issue concerning what really happened with the “Maspeth 250” began to emerge as were details of the relationship between Tim Sylvester and the TDU. Questions of loyalty and who was running the local began to surface as the battle lines became clearer over time.
Leadership is something that Tim lacked in dealing with his own local. He did not resolve the issues with his up and coming business agent Liam Russertt, who eventually formed his own slate, one of a total of three slates, separate from Tim Sylvester’s own slate. Tim did not recognize the threat 804 Strong presented nor the fact so many slates had formed within his own local. Tim did not truly lead in resolving the “Maspeth 250” situation. If he had truly taken charge of the situation, then Ken Hall would never had the opportunity to get involved in the discussions with UPS in resolving the issue.
These plus some dysfunction within the union hall in local 804 led to his downfall as his slate lost the election by 70 votes. Another way of looking at the election is that nearly 65% voted against his slate. Even if his slate had received 100 extra votes, he needed to recognize the fact the over 60% of a local voted against him. The 60% against is the only true reflection of how a membership felt about his leadership. Not how one is perceived by others outside their local. The image of him fighting the company was a fraud. The truth was known within the local. But the beginning of the tribalism within the local began to rear its ugly head as there existed individuals who were plotting against him in the first place, because they felt he was losing his touch and some from the very beginning felt he did not know how to lead; he only knew how to give good speeches. The end result is the only thing that mattered when it came to the potential of Tim Sylvester. The leadership needed to keep his local unified eluded him and eventually lead to him fading into the background.