Legendary Organizer

14 February marks the anniversary of the birth of James R. Hoffa in 1913. Hoffa was President of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters from 1958 to 1971.

Hoffa left school at 14 to work as a manual laborer in order to help support his family. Hoffa began organizing workers in the grocery industry after experiencing abusive foremen, low job security, and dangerous working conditions at loading docks. He would meet his future wife at a strike for laundry workers and would become President of Teamsters Local 299 in Detroit, Michigan.

In 1964, he succeeded in bringing virtually all over-the-road truck drivers in North America under a single national master-freight agreement, in what would prove to be his most remarkable achievement in a lifetime of union activity.

One of the lesser known aspects to Hoffa’s career was his support for the state of Israel. In 1955, Hoffa held a dinner that raised $300,000 – a phenomenal sum at the time – for an orphanage in Ein Kerem, a Jerusalem suburb. A year later, he would personally be on hand for the dedication of that orphanage, joining together with Golda Meir and members of Israel’s Labor Party. In 2008, a memorial to Hoffa was dedicated at the Yitzak Rabin Center, in Tel Aviv, Israel.