The International Brotherhood of Teamsters has become the colossus of the labor world. With its jurisdiction extending into almost every industry in the country, and controlling the most vital of economic links -- motor transport -- its coercive power has become almost legendary. American trade unionism has watched the growth of this organization with some trepidation. A number of unions "voluntarily" ceded portions of their membership to the Teamsters, a very rare event in the annals of the American labor movement. The fate of the Brewery Workers' Union, which refused to accede to the jurisdictional demands of the Teamsters, provided an object lesson which other unions have taken to heart.
The power of the Teamsters is taken so much for granted that it is easy to forget its relatively recent origin. In 1932, total membership was only 82,000. 1 After an organizational drive undertaken during the NRA period, membership rose to 135,000 in 1935. The 1935 convention was told: "we stand today in this Convention having the highest membership over a period of one year that we ever enjoyed in the history of the International Union." 2 Yet at the time it was estimated that intercity trucking alone provided employment for about one million people, 3 and while employment data are not available for intracity trucking, there must have been at least that number again engaged in such employment. It was only in the years after 1935 that the Teamsters' Union began to realize its organizing potential. By 1941, it had attained a dues-paying membership of 530,000, having achieved a rate of growth more rapid than that of any other major union in the country. Thus, the period of the nineteen-thirties was characterized fully as much by the rise of the Teamsters as it was by the establishment of the CIO.
The Teamsters' Union is a multi-industrial organization. Within cities, it asserts jurisdiction over drivers in general local trucking, as well as over