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Latest News - March 2010

March 17, 2010
Teamsters: The Union that passed from father to son
Author: Matt Spence
Source: Times Online


For most of its existence, the Teamsters union has held the goal that no product should be transported anywhere within the United States without being touched by Teamster hands. It has never quite achieved that goal, but with more than 1.4 million members, most of them truck drivers and other transport workers, it is still one of the largest and most influential unions in the US.

From the 1920’s and continuing for nearly 50 years, the Teamsters were more closely associated with organised crime than organised labour. Whether seeking protection from Al Capone’s gang in Chicago or financing the mob’s development of Las Vegas casinos with union pension funds, the Teamsters were known to be in league with the criminal underworld. A 1950’s congressional investigation into their activities is credited with launching the political career of Robert F. Kennedy.

The period of mob influence over the Teamsters came to an end with one of the most talked about unsolved mysteries in America. Jimmy Hoffa, the president of the union from 1958 until his imprisonment on witness tampering charges in 1967, mysteriously vanished while plotting his comeback with the union in 1975. On the night he disappeared, he was due to meet two mobsters in a parking lot outside of Detroit, Michigan. His body remains missing, though a search was conducted by the FBI as recently as 2006.

Over the past 20 years the Teamsters union, now run by Jimmy Hoffa’s son James, has donated nearly $28 million (£18.2m) to candidates for federal office, ranking them ninth among all major donors and fifth among organised labour. Despite supporting Republican presidents Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush in the 1980’s and early 90’s, the Teamsters now donate almost exclusively to the Democrats and exert a great deal of influence over party members.

In addition to truck drivers, the Teamsters represent workers in the airline, brewery, food services, newspaper, port, and movie industries, among others.





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