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O’Brien extends lead in race for Teamsters presidency

Head of Boston's Local 25 dominating eastern region voting after decisively prevailing in south and central regions

A small portion of rank-and-file voted in general election (Shutterstock photo)

Sean M. O’Brien widened his lead Wednesday in the race for the Teamsters union’s general-presidency as he captured the lion’s share of votes tabulated by midafternoon across the union’s eastern region.

As of 3 p.m. ET, O’Brien had garnered 13,593 of the 19,620 votes that had been counted in the east, according to results posted by the Teamsters’ Office of Election Supervisor. O’Brien’s opponent, Steve Vairma, received 6,027 votes.

O’Brien, 49, began Wednesday with a commanding lead after handily winning the Teamsters’ central and southern regions. In both regions, O’Brien received two and a half times the votes of Vairma.

O’Brien, who heads Teamsters Local 25 in Boston, was expected to do well in the east. Results from the western region and Canada have yet to be posted on the election supervisor’s site. Vairma, who is secretary-treasurer of Local 455 in Denver, will need to win by overwhelming margins in the west and in Canada to maintain the slightest hope of prevailing.

As of midafternoon, 88,000 of the approximately 190,000 votes had been counted, according to the election supervisor. The Teamsters, the most famous labor union in American history, has more than 1.3 million members spread across multiple industries. UPS Inc. (NYSE: UPS) is the largest individual Teamster employer with roughly 318,000 members.

O’Brien and Vairma are vying for the position held for the past 23 years by James P. Hoffa. Hoffa announced in early 2020 that he would not seek reelection for a sixth term when his current term expired in March 2022. A general-president’s term is five years.

O’Brien is considered an aggressive, confrontational leader and has publicly said he will leverage that style in dealings with Teamsters employers. His base of support is composed of insurgent members and others dissatisfied with the evolution of Hoffa’s leadership and eager for a change. Vairma is backed by pro-Hoffa supporters and is perceived as a leader who will continue Hoffa’s policies.

The two big tests for the next general-president will be negotiating a new collective-bargaining agreement with UPS — the current compact expires on July 31, 2023 — and pushing to organize workers at Inc. (NASDAQ:AMZN), which is a nonunion company. Earlier this year, the Teamsters approved the creation of a division dedicated to organizing workers at the Seattle-based e-tailer.

Overhanging those efforts is the dramatic change in U.S. commerce, fulfillment and physical distribution triggered by the secular surge in e-commerce demand.


  1. Dick Bischoff

    back to the ways of union thuggery, Hoffa senior would be proud. Get ready for a protracted strike in two years TForce Freight. Good Day

  2. Freight Zippy

    Leading as dying union in a predominantly non union industry. How wonderful.
    No wonder the Teamsters have given up on trucking. I guess more amazing is that the industry is better without the Teamsters….

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Mark Solomon

Formerly the Executive Editor at DC Velocity, Mark Solomon joined FreightWaves as Managing Editor of Freight Markets. Solomon began his journalistic career in 1982 at Traffic World magazine, ran his own public relations firm (Media Based Solutions) from 1994 to 2008, and has been at DC Velocity since then. Over the course of his career, Solomon has covered nearly the whole gamut of the transportation and logistics industry, including trucking, railroads, maritime, 3PLs, and regulatory issues. Solomon witnessed and narrated the rise of Amazon and XPO Logistics and the shift of the U.S. Postal Service from a mail-focused service to parcel, as well as the exponential, e-commerce-driven growth of warehouse square footage and omnichannel fulfillment.