Teamsters Union

The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.

Teamsters Union

Teamsters Union, U.S. labor union formed in 1903 by the amalgamation of the Team Drivers International Union and the Teamsters National Union. Its full name is the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, Chauffeurs, Warehousemen, and Helpers of America (IBT). In 2005 the union had 1.4 million members; the majority of its members are truck drivers. The Teamsters has been one of the few unions to support Republican candidates, backing Richard Nixon in 1972 and Ronald Reagan in the 1980s.

The strongest Teamster centers at the beginning of the 20th cent. were Chicago, New York City, Boston, and St. Louis. Chicago, with about half the membership, was the scene of an unsuccessful 1905 strike against Montgomery Ward & Co., which resulted in a decline in union membership. In 1907, Daniel J. Tobin, a Boston Teamster unconnected with that strike, became president. He held the position until 1952, and his policy of avoiding sympathetic action on behalf of other unions and zealously guarding the expenditure of union funds helped the Teamsters to grow. In 1933, the union undertook the organization of the rapidly growing long-distance trucking industry. By threatening to stop deliveries to and from employers who refused to come to terms, the Teamsters were able to gain contracts not only in trucking but in related enterprises.

In the early 1940s Tobin successfully withstood a threat to his leadership from a Minneapolis local. But Tobin's successors ran into problems with corruption. The revelations of a Senate investigating committee led the American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO) to expel the IBT in 1957. Dave Beck, Tobin's successor, was sent to prison in 1958 for larceny and income tax violations. The evasiveness of Beck and his successor, Jimmy Hoffa, before Senate committees was an important factor in the passage (1959) of the Landrum-Griffin Act.

Opposition to Hoffa within the union forced him to accept a monitorship over his presidency until 1961, but did not seriously impair his power. Hoffa himself was sent to prison in 1967, but retained the presidency until 1971, when he resigned and was succeeded by Frank E. Fitzsimmons. Massive IBT contributions to President Richard Nixon's reelection committee led to Hoffa's release in 1971. Hoffa attempted a comeback but disappeared in 1975; he is believed to have been killed by organized-crime figures.

In the 1970s and 80s, a number of Teamster leaders were convicted of irregularities in handling pension funds and of accepting bribes from employers to stop strikes or reduce labor costs. In 1977 allegations of control by organized crime forced the Teamsters to yield oversight of the Central States Pension fund to outsiders. Fitzsimmons died in 1981. His successor, Roy Williams, was convicted the same year of bribing a U.S. Senator. Jackie Presser, who became president in 1982, was indicted in 1985 for embezzling union funds and giving crime figures no-show jobs. The IBT reentered the AFL-CIO in 1988.

In 1989, with William McCarthy as union president, the Teamsters settled a federal racketeering suit that accused officials of allowing known crime figures to control and exploit the union. A court-appointed trustee supervised elections that resulted (1991) in the election of a reform candidate, Ronald R. Carey, a former New York parcel service driver and local president. (This was the first time the IBT membership was able to vote for union president; previously the national presidents were chosen by the IBT leadership.) In the 1990s the union faced tougher times. Deregulation in the trucking industry after 1980 created many low-cost nonunion firms and led to generally lower wages and benefits. Carey narrowly won reelection over James P. Hoffa, the son of Jimmy Hoffa, in 1996, but then lost office in 1997 over allegations of failing to stop illegal campaign fund-raising; he was later acquitted of lying to investigators about the scheme. Hoffa won a 1998 election to replace Carey and was reelected in 2001. In a split with AFL-CIO executives over union priorities, the Teamsters and two other large unions left the organization in 2005.


See S. Romer, The International Brotherhood of Teamsters (1962); D. Garnel, The Rise of Teamster Power in the West (1972); S. Brill, The Teamsters (1978); D. Moldea, The Hoffa Wars (1978); A. Friedman, Power and Greed (1989); and J. Neff, Mobbed Up (1989).

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Cite this article

Cited article

Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25,

Note: primary sources have slightly different requirements for citation. Please see these guidelines for more information.

Cited article

Teamsters Union


Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25,

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Author Advanced search


    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.