Hoffa Faces a Bumpy Road

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Winning the Teamsters election was the easy part for James P. Hoffa. Now comes the challenge: Leading a bankrupt union, which has lost $162 million in the past seven years, in the face of two powerful rivals, each ready and willing to limit his influence. As a result, predicts TIME correspondent Edward Barnes, Hoffa's three-year term will prove a tough haul for the new Teamsters president at a critical time when the labor movement is struggling to regain its old political influence.

Hoffa's first challenge will come from his own nominal allies, the organized labor movement. "Hoffa will have to come to an accommodation with the AFL-CIO," says Barnes. But "it will be very difficult" for him to do that, says Barnes, because the top AFL-CIO leadership supported Ron Carey, Hoffa's predecessor and nemesis, who was ultimately toppled because of campaign irregularities. The second challenge will come from the feds, whose continuing monitoring has helped drain the union's coffers and limited its influence. To undo those shackles, says Barnes "Hoffa will have to come to Washington with all his guns blazing." But with little money to maneuver past these obstacles, Hoffa is likely to find himself in the difficult position of driving a creaky tractor-trailer along the edge of a precipice.