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Sunday, March 12, 2006 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Governor thanks Teamsters for votes

Seattle Times staff reporter

Gov. Christine Gregoire polished her credentials with organized labor on Saturday with an appearance before a boisterous annual meeting of local Teamsters leaders.

With Teamsters national President James Hoffa Jr. looking on, Gregoire thanked the 300 or so Teamsters shop stewards assembled at the Washington Convention and Trade Center for helping her win the 2004 election.

"I know, my friends, I would not be here without you," she said.

Hoffa lobbied Gregoire in a private meeting to take care of the 5,200 Department of Corrections workers in Teamsters Local 117 during upcoming contract negotiations. Gregoire told the crowd that she said she would, echoing the Teamsters' position that DOC staff are paid 20 percent less than some of their peers.

"Let's start making it happen for you and your families," she said, getting a standing ovation.

Local 117, an amalgam of prison guards, port police, warehouse workers and airport staff, is the third-largest of the Teamsters' 500-some locals in the country.

Hoffa followed Gregoire to the podium with a joke about Dick Cheney's quail-hunting accident — "I'm all for tort reform, but shooting a lawyer is the wrong way to do it" — before launching into criticism of the Bush administration's failure to stem the tide of outsourcing.

"Does anybody think the people of India are paying taxes here to support schools and government and police?" Hoffa asked.

Like Gregoire, he called on the White House to improve security at ports like Seattle's. Governors such as Gregoire can help by pushing port managers to require background checks of staff, he said.

"You have to take your shoes off at the airport, but right now, just anyone can walk into a port and look around," Hoffa said in an interview after his speech.

He praised Washington's strong labor history while noting that one of the region's biggest employers, Microsoft, was increasingly outsourcing labor. "They are bragging about shipping work to China. That's just terrible," said Hoffa. "They should be investing those plants in the U.S., not shipping them to China."

Jonathan Martin: 206-464-2605 or jmartin@seattletimes.com

Copyright © 2006 The Seattle Times Company

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