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Teamsters Reformer Wins Presidency as Hoffa-Backed Foe Concedes

Nov. 19, 2021, 4:24 PM

Reform candidate Sean O’Brien declared victory in the race to become the International Brotherhood of Teamsters’ next president, after his James P. Hoffa-backed opponent conceded on Friday.

O’Brien, head of the Teamsters local chapter in Boston, held a 2 to 1 lead over rival Steve Vairma, with more than 90 percent of ballots counted. The official tally won’t be certified until next month.

From the outset, O’Brien had made his candidacy a referendum on Hoffa, the Teamsters’ current president, saying the union should take a harder stance in contract negotiations. He has also vowed to mount an aggressive push to organize workers at Inc.

“Employers and politicians are on notice—the Teamsters union is back,” O’Brien said in a statement late Thursday.

Vairma said in a statement Friday morning that it had “become clear that we will not have the opportunity to lead the Teamsters in the role we had envisioned.” He blamed his loss in part on an “outdated, broken election system,” and low voter turnout.

There are several thousand votes left to be counted. The union’s roughly 1.4 million members select top leadership through direct balloting.

To contact the reporter on this story: Ian Kullgren in Washington at

To contact the editors responsible for this story: John Lauinger at; Andrew Harris at