Jimmy Hoffa – the most well-known union leader

Tough upbringing shaped the will

When talking about unions and its leaders you pretty soon will get to Jimmy Hoffa. His name has become unanimous with the fight of the little worker against the industrial giants. Jimmy was born James Riddle Hoffa in 1913 in Brazil – Indiana, USA. His father worked in mining and died when Jimmy was young. After the death of the father his mother had no other choice than to use all possible ways to get money to the family. She started doing peoples laundry for payment and here the children had to help when they came from school. Jimmy describes, as an adult, his mother as a woman who thought discipline and duty should be spelled with large characters. At eleven the family moved to Chicago. They lived in a working-class community and Jimmy was often made a fool of because of being a country boy. This was mostly solved by fists. After the school day he worked as a courier and left school after ninth grade just before the big crash of the stock market.

Started the career in groceries

Jimmy’s good friend, Walter Murphy, gave him the advice to get into the grocery market with the argument that no matter what happens people will always need food.  Jimmy managed, against all odds, to get a job with Kroger Grocery and Baking Company, that had their warehouse just near to where Jimmy lived. To get this job he had to lie about his age. In Chicago during that time unemployment was very high and it was seen as a privilege to have a job. At work he loaded train wagons and the pay was 32 cent an hour. The conditions were not good. The workers were supposed to be at work at five in the morning and work a twelve-hour shift. The only got payed for the actual time when they were loading wagons, the rest of the time they couldn´t leave the warehouse, but still wasn´t payed.

Early union work

Jimmy Hoffa’s boss was quite the bastard called just that,” Little Bastard”. Jimmy meant that a boss like that is a man laying a foundation for a union. Hoffa and his friends at work had to be careful since a third of USA workers were unemployed. One night when two workers were fired and a shipment of strawberries had arrived Hoffa, as informal leader, called to stop working. Since the strawberries needed to be cool it didn’t take long before the employer was ready to discuss their terms and salary. They got a raise and a guarantee of half a day pay per work shift.

Leader of Teamsters

After having engaged in union matters during the bigger part of his working life Hoffa was a powerful man and a front figure to one of the biggest unions in the US, Teamsters. He however lost his position after being prisoned for fraud. There were also suspicions about him having connections in the underworld. After being freed in 1975 he tried to get his position back with Teamsters but disappeared under mysterious ways and claimed dead in 1982. In 2003 a friend of Hoffa’s, Frank Sheeran admitted to killing him as a job for the Detroit mafia for threatening to expose their business with Teamsters.