James P. Hoffa
General President, International Brotherhood of Teamsters
Live Web cast May 15, 2001 1 p.m. ET/10 a.m. PT
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It's not easy living up to a legend. In 1998, James P. Hoffa took over as president of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, a post his father, James R. Hoffa, once held with great fanfare and notoriety. The father disappeared 25 years ago, a presumed victim of foul play. The son has vowed to rebuild, reform and expand the union, and he's ready to fight to achieve his goals.
Hoffa’s fighting spirit could be heard loud and clear after labor lost a major battle in May when the U.S. House of Representatives approved permanent normal trade relations (PNTR) with China.
''Congress has turned its back on ... America's working families," he claimed. "There are Teamster families in every congressional district in America, and those families vote. Those who would oppose these families have done so at their own political peril."
The peril comes from the 568 Teamster local unions with a total of 1.5 million members across North America. The International Brotherhood of Teamsters is one of the largest labor unions in the world; it represents a variety of trades, from airline pilots to zookeepers. One out of every ten union members is a Teamster
James P. Hoffa became a Teamster member himself on his 18th birthday when his father swore him in. The son then worked as a laborer in Detroit and Alaska, loading and unloading freight from ships, driving trucks and buses and operating heavy equipment. He then played football for Coach Duffy Daugherty at Michigan State University and graduated with a degree in Economics. He went on to receive his law degree from the University of Michigan, and worked as a Teamster attorney from 1968 through 1993. From 1993 to 1998, Hoffa worked at Michigan Joint Council 43.
Hoffa ran for union president in 1996 and lost by a narrow margin to Ron Carey. In 1998, Carey was barred from running because he diverted funds to his 1996 campaign. That's when Hoffa took over. He opposes trade agreements such as NAFTA, the World Trade Organization, and the House-approved PNTR with China, and he aims to keep fighting. Just like his dad.
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