Jimmy Hoffa

Hoffa revived the American labor movement but also became symbolic of corrupt union leadership. Head of the Teamsters union, he worked closely with members of organized crime. He also centralized union leadership, expanded organizing activities, and raised the wages of Teamsters while reducing competition from nonunion drivers.

Jimmy Hoffa began his career in Detroit as a warehouse freight handler for the Kroger food chain. By 1934, he was working full time as an organizer for the International Brotherhood of TeamstersInternational Brotherhood of Teamsters. He became president of his local in 1937 and subsequently obtained help from Detroit gangsters to defeat trade union rivals. Unions;leadershipIn 1946, Hoffa pleaded guilty to extorting small grocers in Detroit to purchase “permits” from the Teamsters to make deliveries with their own trucks. A 1955 Senate investigation into the Teamsters put Hoffa on television and made him a national figure.Hoffa, Jimmy

Hoffa became the Teamsters’ president in 1957. In 1967, he went to federal prison for jury tampering, fraud, and conspiracy in the disposition of union funds. President Richard M. Nixon pardoned Hoffa in 1971, with the provision that he keep out of union affairs until 1980.

Hoffa became one of the most famous missing persons in history when he vanished without a trace on July 30, 1975, after leaving a restaurant in Detroit. The general consensus among biographers is that Hoffa met with foul play, probably at the hands of underworld figures.

Further Reading

  • Franco, Joseph, with Richard Hammer. Hoffa’s Man: The Rise and Fall of Jimmy Hoffa as Witnessed by His Strongest Arm. Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice Hall, 1987.
  • Hoffa, James Riddle. The Trials of Jimmy Hoffa: An Autobiography. Chicago: Henry Regnery, 1970.
  • Witwer, David. Corruption and Reform in the Teamsters Union. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2003.

Eugene V. Debs

Samuel Gompers

International Brotherhood of Teamsters

Labor history