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Teamsters are truck drivers. The name derives from pre-motor days, when teamsters would control the teams of heavy horses pulling large wagons.
Jimma Hoffa on Time 9-9-1957


The Teamsters union (officially the International Brotherhood of Teamsters) is a powerful American labor union, notorious for its corruption and violence from the 1930s through the 1970s. Besides truck drivers it has organized a wide range of other workers, even including some graduate students.

The union has been both a member of the AFL-CIO and in chief opposition to it, and is one of the few large unions that has supported Republican presidents.

Violence, strikes and corruption

For over a hundred years it has been known for leading aggressive strikes, and playing a central role in other strikes by deciding whether or not trucks can bring supplies into a factory or hotel or construction site where a strike by another union is underway. The union was closely tied to gangsters in the 1930s, and many leaders were murdered.[1]

In 1934 Trotskyites in the Socialist Workers Party took control of the Minneapolis Teamsters local 574 and launched two major violent strikes, which succeeded. Daniel J. Tobin, the national president opposed radicalism and especially communism; he tried to break the Trotskyite hold on Local 574 in the late 1930s but failed. In the spring of 1941, after the passage of the Smith Act (1940) and with World War II on and U.S. participation impending, Tobin launched a successful attack. The decisive blow to the far left came from the Roosevelt Administration with the federal indictment against the Socialist Workers Party under the Smith Act. Among the 29 arrested and put on trial were the Dunne brothers, Farrell Dobbs and five other Local 544 officials; they went to prison.[2]

Dave Beck on Time April 8, 1957

In the 1950s the Teamsters union was expelled from the AFL for its notorious corruption under president Dave Beck (1896-1993), the president from 1952 to 1957. Its depravity was put given national attention by series of highly visible Senate hearing led by Robert Kennedy in the late 1950s. The target was Jimmy Hoffa, (1913–75), who held total power until he was imprisoned in 1964. Hoffa disappeared in 1975, presumably murdered. His son James P. Hoffa (b. 1941) was elected president of the union in 1999, and twice reelected.

See also

Further reading


  1. Witwer (2008)
  2. Ralph C. James and Estelle James, "The Purge of the Trotskyites from the Teamsters," Western Political Quarterly 1966 19(1): 5-15.