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Jimmy Hoffa was became a labor organizer in the 1930s, rising in the Teamsters Union during the next two decades until he reached the office of president.
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Jimmy Hoffa was born February 14, 1913, in Brazil, Indiana. He became a labor organizer in the 1930s, rising in the Teamsters Union during the next two decades. He played a key role in forging the first national freight-hauling agreement. He was sent to prison in 1967 for jury tampering, fraud, and conspiracy. In 1975 he disappeared; he is believed to have been murdered.
Still missing and presumed dead, Jimmy Hoffa was one of the most famous labor leaders in American history. He saw the challenges and hardships American workers faced firsthand growing up. His father was a coal miner who died when he was still young. His mother went to work to support Hoffa and his three siblings, eventually moving the family to Detroit.
Hoffa only had a limited education. Before the ninth grade, he dropped out of school to go to work to help his family. Hoffa eventually went to work on a loading dock for a grocery store chain in Detroit. There he orchestrated his first labor strike, helping his co-workers land a better contract. He used a newly arrived shipment of strawberries as a bargain chip. The workers wouldn't unload until they had a new deal.
In the 1930s, Hoffa joined the International Brotherhood of Teamsters. He eventually became the president of the union's Detroit chapter. Ambitious and aggressive, Hoffa worked hard to expand the union's membership and negotiate better contracts for his constituents by any means necessary. His extensive efforts paid off in 1952 when he became the vice president of the entire union.
Five years later, Hoffa won the presidency of the Teamsters, replacing Dave Beck. Beck was tried and convicted on charges related to his union activities. Hoffa himself was the subject of numerous investigations but managed to avoid prosecution for many years. In 1961, he scored one of his decisive victories as union president. Hoffa brought together almost all of the trucker drivers in North America under one contract. Both the FBI and U.S. Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy kept a close eye on Hoffa, believing that he advanced himself and his union with assistance from organized crime. The Justice Department indicted Hoffa several times, but they failed to win their cases against the popular labor leader. In March 1964, however, the prosecution scored a victory against Hoffa. He was found guilty of bribery and jury tampering in connection with his 1962 federal trial for conspiracy. That July, Hoffa suffered another blow. He was convicted of misusing funds from the union's pension plan.
Hoffa spent three years appealing his convictions, but these efforts proved fruitless. He began serving a possible 13-year prison sentence in 1967, but he received a pardon from President Richard Nixon in 1971. Nixon also banned Hoffa from holding a leadership position in the union until 1980. But Hoffa wasted no time trying to fight that ban in court and working behind the scenes to regain control over the Teamsters.
During his career, Hoffa had made more than his fair share of enemies.
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