|Born||February 14, 1913
Brazil, Indiana, U.S.
|Died||(disappeared July 30, 1975)
|Occupation||Labor union leader|
|Children||James P. Hoffa, Barbara Ann Crancer|
James Riddle "Jimmy" Hoffa (February 14, 1913 - probably died July-early August, 1975, exact date of death unknown) was an American labor leader and criminal convict. As the president of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters from the mid-1950s to the mid-1960s, Hoffa wielded considerable influence. After he was convicted of attempted bribery of a grand juror, he served nearly a decade in prison. He is also well-known in popular culture for the mysterious circumstances surrounding his unexplained disappearance and presumed death. His son James P. Hoffa is the current president of the Teamsters. Hoffa wanted to defend the rights and improve the working conditions of his union members in the transport industry, which more often than not created conflict with employers and with the government, responsible for regulation. Charges of corruption may have been linked to political opposition to the labor movement, or they may have been justified. He may have seen the Mafia, which infiltrated the union, as something that strengthened his hand in negotiation. Oddly, in its origins, the Mafia had set out to protect the weak and to restore order in what at the time was a lawless society. Hoffa's critics say that he enriched himself at the expense of the teamsters. His defenders claim that "dedication as an American labor leader for more than 40 years, as well as his widely recognized accomplishments on behalf of teamsters and all working people in America" should not be forgotten.
|Part of a series on
|The Labor Movement|
|New Unionism · Proletariat|
|Social Movement Unionism|
|Syndicalism · Socialism|
|Child labor · Eight-hour day|
|Occupational safety and health|
|Trade unions by country|
|Trade union federations|
|ITUC · WFTU · IWA|
|Chronological list of strikes|
|General strike · Sympathy strike|
|Sitdown strike · Work-to-rule|
|Joe Hill · Dita Indah Sari|
|Norma Rae · Walter Reuther|
|Sonja Davies · Eugene V. Debs|
|James Larkin · Bob White|
|Labor in economics|
|Labor history (discipline)|
Hoffa was born in Brazil, Indiana, the third son of a poor coal miner named John Cleveland Hoffa and his wife Viola Riddle Hoffa. His father died when he was young and Hoffa could not stay in school. Hoffa moved to Lake Orion, Michigan to work in a warehouse. He developed a reputation as a tough street fighter who always stood up for his fellow workers against management. Because of this, Hoffa was fired from his warehouse job but later hired as a union organizer for Local 299 of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters (IBT). He and other IBT organizers fought with management in their organizing efforts in the Detroit, Michigan, area.
Hoffa's ancestry is not entirely known. Jimmy Hoffa's paternal ancestors were Pennsylvania Germans who migrated to Indiana in the mid-1800s.
Hoffa used organized crime connections to shake down an association of small grocery stores. This led to his first criminal conviction, for which he paid a fine. After he rose to a leadership position in Local 299, Hoffa continued to work with organized crime in Detroit, using the threat of labor trouble to induce business to use a mobster controlled clothier 
He was a natural leader who rose out of the mistreatment of workers. In 1933, age 20, the first strike he helped organize was for "swampers," the workers who loaded and unloaded strawberries and other fresh produce on and off delivery trucks.
The Teamsters union organized truckers & firefighters, first throughout the Midwest and then nationwide. It skillfully used "quickie" strikes, secondary boycotts and other means of leveraging union strength at one company to organize workers and win contract demands at others. The union also used less-lawful means to bring some employers into line.
Hoffa took over the presidency of the Teamsters in 1957, when his predecessor, Dave Beck, was convicted on bribery charges and imprisoned. Hoffa worked to expand the union and in 1964 succeeded in bringing virtually all North American over-the-road truck drivers under a single national master freight agreement. Hoffa then pushed to try to bring the airlines and other transport employees into the union. This was of great concern as a strike involving all transport systems would be devastating for the national economy.
For all the benefits that Hoffa and some Teamsters delivered for over-the-road drivers, other Teamsters locals did little more than sign "sweetheart deals" that made union officers rich and left workers poor. In industries such as garment delivery, organized crime took over locals, and then used their power to strike, bringing the entire industry either under the Mafia's control, or at least vulnerable to blackmail threats.
Hoffa had a working relationship with these racketeers, some of whom had played an important part in his election as general president of the Teamsters. Several Teamster chapter presidents were convicted for mob-related crimes but often would continue serving as union leaders, such as Anthony "Tony Pro" Provenzano in New Jersey. Cleveland Corn-Sugar War survivor Moe Dalitz and Allen Dorfman bankrolled many mob casinos, hotels and other construction projects from the Teamsters pension fund.
At the time, Pres. John F. Kennedy and his successor Lyndon B. Johnson both put pressure on Hoffa through Kennedy's brother Robert F. Kennedy, then the U.S. Attorney General, investigating Hoffa's activities and disrupting his ever-growing union. The Kennedys expressed certainty that Hoffa had secretly and illegally pocketed a great deal of union money, including more than $85,000 between 1949 and 1953, for Hoffa's personal bills. Having expelled the Teamsters in the 1950s, the AFL-CIO also disliked Hoffa and aided the Democrats in their investigations.
Ultimately, Hoffa was not nearly as indebted to organized crime as to his successor and longtime crony Frank Fitzsimmons, who died from cancer before he could be jailed. While Hoffa was a brilliant tactician who knew how to play one employer against another and who used the union's power to nationalize the industry by driving out weaker employers, "Fitz" was content to gather the other benefits of high office. The deregulation of the trucking industry pushed by United States Senator Edward M. Kennedy and others during Fitzsimmons' tenure eventually dismantled much of what Hoffa had won for his members under the National Master Freight Agreement, by making it much harder and more costly to maintain the standards Hoffa had achieved.
Hoffa's son, James P. Hoffa, became his father's successor as the Teamster Union's leader. Hoffa's daughter, Barbara Ann Crancer, became an associate circuit court judge in St. Louis, Missouri. In 1991 she sued for release of the 69 volumes of FBI reports, believing that the answer to her father's disappearance could be found in the files. 
In 1964, Hoffa was convicted of attempted bribery of a grand juror and jailed for 15 years. On December 23, 1971, he was released after only four years when Pres. Richard Nixon commuted his sentence to "time served" on the condition he not participate in union activities for ten years. Hoffa was planning to sue to invalidate that restriction in order to reassert his power over the Teamsters when he disappeared at, or sometime after, 2:45P.M. on July 30, 1975 from the parking lot of the Machus Red Fox Restaurant in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan, a suburb of Detroit. He had been due to meet two Mafia leaders, Anthony "Tony Jack" Giacalone from Detroit and Anthony "Tony Pro" Provenzanofrom Union City, New Jersey and New York City.
His fate is a mystery that continues to this day. Among the theories are:
Hoffa was declared legally dead and a death certificate issued on July 30, 1982, seven years after his disappearance. Rumors of sightings have persisted for years. His disappearance has since entered the public lexicon, where people would often state someone would "sooner find Jimmy Hoffa" than something else that was difficult to locate.
According to recent publications and expert testimony (Charles Brandt), it is believed that Jimmy Hoffa's body was cremated with the assistance of a Mafia-owned funeral home at a cemetery located near the Detroit home in which Hoffa was killed.
Some respected theorists believe Hoffa referred to the heir to the Olsen fortune, Patrick Shaw, as a "public" (derogatory adjective slang for public school attendee) and was therefore "offed" by Mr. Shaw himself.
DNA evidence examined in 2001 placed Hoffa in the car of longtime Teamster associate Charles O'Brien, despite O'Brien's claims Hoffa had never been in his car. Police interviews later that year failed to produce any indictments.
In July 2003, after the convicted killer Richard Powell told authorities that a briefcase containing a syringe used to subdue Hoffa was buried at a house in Hampton Township, Michigan, another backyard was examined and excavated. Again, nothing was found.
In 2003, the FBI searched the backyard of a home in Hampton Township, Michigan formerly frequented by Frank Sheeran, World War II veteran, Mafia hitman, truck driver, Teamsters official and close friend of Hoffa. Nothing significant was found.
In 2004, Charles Brandt, a former prosecutor and Chief Deputy Attorney General of Delaware, published the book I Heard You Paint Houses. The title is based on a euphemistic exchange apparently used by hitmen and their would-be employers. "I heard you paint houses." "Yes, and I do my own carpentry, too." House painting alludes to the splatter of blood on walls, and "doing my own carpentry" to the task of disposing of the body. Brandt recounted a series of confessions by Sheeran regarding Hoffa's murder, and he claimed that Sheeran had begun contacting him because he wished to assuage feelings of guilt. Over the course of several years, he spoke many times by phone to Brandt (which Brandt recorded) during which he acknowledged his role as Hoffa's killer, acting on orders from the Mafia. He claimed to have used his friendship with Hoffa to lure him to a bogus meeting in Bloomfield Hills and drive him to a house in northwestern Detroit, where he shot him twice before fleeing and leaving Hoffa's body behind. An updated version of Brandt's book claims that Hoffa's body was cremated within an hour of Sheeran's departure.
On February 14, 2006, Lynda Milito, wife of Gambino crime family member Louie Milito, claimed that her husband had told her during an argument in 1988 that he had killed Hoffa and dumped his body near Staten Island's Verrazano-Narrows Bridge in New York City.
In April 2006, news reports surfaced that hitman Richard "The Iceman" Kuklinski had confessed to author Philip Carlo that he was part of a group of five men who had kidnapped and murdered Hoffa. The claim's credibility is questionable, as Kuklinski has become somewhat notorious for repeatedly claiming to have killed people—including Roy DeMeo—that concrete evidence has proved he could not have killed. The story forms part of the book The Ice Man: Confessions of a Mafia Contract Killer, published 2006.
On May 17, 2006, acting on a tip, the FBI began digging for Hoffa's remains outside of a barn on what is now the Hidden Dreams Farm (satellite photo) in Milford Township, Michigan where they surveyed the land and began to dig up parts of the 85-acre parcel, according to federal officials. More than 40 agents sectioned off a piece of the property where they believed Hoffa's bones might be. Federal agents would not say who tipped them off, but said they received information on a group of people who had met on the land 30 years before. The FBI has made contact with Hoffa's daughter, but no other information has been released. It is not known if the FBI has found anything, although images taken from a helicopter appeared to show agents digging something out of the ground. The investigation team included forensic experts from the bureau's Washington laboratory and anthropologists, archaeologists, engineers and architects.
On May 18, 2006, the Detroit Free Press reported that the Hoffa search was prompted by information supplied by Donovan Wells, 75, a prisoner at the Federal Medical Center in Lexington, KY. The newspaper said Wells, who was jailed for ten years in January 2004 for using his Detroit-area trucking company and drivers to ship large quantities of marijuana from Texas to Detroit from 1998-2001, was trying to parlay his knowledge about Hoffa's disappearance to get out of prison early. On May 20, 2006, the Free Press, quoting anonymous sources, said one of Wells' lawyers had threatened to go to the media during the previous year, unless the U.S. Attorney's Office acted on Wells' information and followed through on a pledge to seek his release from prison. The next day, the newspaper quoted Wells' lawyer from a 1976 criminal case, James Elsman of Birmingham, who said the FBI in 1976 had ignored Wells' offer to tell them where Hoffa was buried. The lawyer said the FBI ignored him again on May 18, after he learned that the FBI was digging in Milford Township and called the bureau to offer the information. Outraged, Elsman said he then offered the information to the Bloomfield Township Police Department. On May 22, an FBI agent and township police detective visited Elsman's office, but Elsman declined to offer much information, saying he first wanted them to provide him with a signed release for Wells. Elsman also offered to visit the horse farm to help agents pinpoint where to dig. The FBI didn't take him up on his offer.
On May 24, 2006, the FBI removed a large barn on the farm to look under it for Hoffa.
On May 30, 2006 the FBI ended the search for Hoffa's body without any remains found at the Hidden Dreams Farm.
On June 16, 2006, the Detroit Free Press published in its entirety the so-called "Hoffex Memo," a 56-page report the FBI prepared for a January 1976 briefing on the case at FBI Headquarters in Washington, D.C. The report, which the FBI has called the definitive account of what agents believe happened to Hoffa, can be found.
In November of 2006 KLAS-TV Channel 8 Las Vegas interviewed author Charles Brandt about the latest news regarding Hoffa's murder and disappearance. Brandt claims that Hoffa's body was taken from the murder scene and possibly driven two minutes away to the Grand Lawn Cemetery where he was cremated.
On July 1, 2007 Detroit Free Press staff writer Joel Thurtell wrote an article that gives the latest information on the Hoffa case.
Some speculate that Hoffa was killed by "government agents" to prevent him from testifying before the House Select Committee on Assassinations, due to his possible knowledge of illegal assassination plots that implicated certain government agencies in association with the Mafia.. Others also speculate that the government investigations against him were politically motivated in order to discredit a labor leader, given the suspicion that the labor movement was too sympathetic with the left wing.
Hoffa always came off to the public as a tough-guy; a man who was strong-willed and strong-armed. He was not well-mannered and was instead rugged around the edges. Hoffa employed whatever means he felt were necessary to ensure that he accomplished his aims. He was courageous and willing to stand out on a limb if need be. Hoffa was concerned with the regular working man and laboriously petitioned on his behalf. He was firm and dedicated in his commitments, even if they working to carry them out might conflict with mainstream principles. Hoffa would become a legend during his lifetime and remain one after his mysterious disappearance in 1975.
All links retrieved February 27, 2014.
|President of Teamsters Union (IBT)
New World Encyclopedia writers and editors rewrote and completed the Wikipedia article in accordance with New World Encyclopedia standards. This article abides by terms of the Creative Commons CC-by-sa 3.0 License (CC-by-sa), which may be used and disseminated with proper attribution. Credit is due under the terms of this license that can reference both the New World Encyclopedia contributors and the selfless volunteer contributors of the Wikimedia Foundation. To cite this article click here for a list of acceptable citing formats.The history of earlier contributions by wikipedians is accessible to researchers here:
Note: Some restrictions may apply to use of individual images which are separately licensed.