Jimmy Hoffa is perhaps the most famous -- and notorious -- labor
leader in U.S. history.
Born James Riddle Hoffa on February 14, 1913 in Brazil, Indiana. Hoffa's father was a coal miner and died while Jimmy was just seven. Four years later, the family moved to Detroit, Michigan. After dropping out of school in 10th grade in order to work to support the family (this was during the Great Depression).
Hoffa took a job as a stock boy at Kroger's and a legend was born. The pay was low, and the conditions were horrendous. Hoffa organized a small strike (only four co-workers joined him) but timed it perfectly to line up with a truckload of fresh strawberries. Knowing the strawberries would spoil rapidly, a new union contract was struck between Kroger's and Hoffa's "Strawberry Boys" in less than an hour.
Less than a year later, Hoffa and the boys joined Teamsters Local 674, which later merged with Truck Drivers Local 299. In a very short time, under Hoffa's guidance, the union grew from 40 to 5,000, and had over $50,000 in the bank. By the age of 28, and in spite of several death threats, bombings, and countless arrests, he formed and led the Michigan Conference of Teamsters. In 1952 he was elected an international vice president of the Teamsters Union, and in 1957 he became international president.
During the 50's however, the federal government began increasing attacks on the Mafia and other organized crime, which Hoffa was openly related to. Big business and the federal government, each for their own reasons, now sought to bring Hoffa down. In 1964, the government succeeded in convicting Hoffa of Jury Tampering and Fraud and he was sentenced to a 15-year prison term in the federal prison at Lewisburg, Pennsylvania. Hoffa would remain the Teamsters' president while in prison but resigned when Richard Nixon commuted his sentence on December 24, 1971, but banned him from union activity.
Hoffa challenged this ban all the way to the Supreme Court, but lost. He did unofficially maintain his ties with both the Teamsters and organized crime until his disappearance in 1975.
He was last seen on July 30, 1975 at the Machus Red Fox restaurant in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan and was declared legally dead in 1983.
There are countless rumors about who killed Hoffa, ranging from the Mafia to the Federal government. The conspiracy is about as complicated as the John F. Kennedy assassination. It has even been rumored that Hoffa is still alive and still guiding the Teamsters through his son, James P. Hoffa, who was elected president of the Teamters in 1998 and was sworn in on March 19, 1999.
One of the funniest rumors claims that Hoffa was buried by the Mafia under Giants Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey which was completed in 1976.