The Birth of the Teamsters
For more than 100 years, the Teamsters Union has helped millions of workers
achieve the American Dream.
Founded in 1903, the International
Brotherhood of Teamsters began as a craft union, representing the men who drove
the horse-drawn wagons essential to American commerce. These team drivers contributed
greatly to the American economy. They worked under poor conditions, toiling
12 to 18 hours per day, seven days a week, for an average wage of $2.00 per
day. From these conditions arose the desire for a better life, and the vehicle
for achieving this American Dream was to form a powerful union.
Today the International Brotherhood
of Teamsters represents more than 1.4 million hardworking men and women in the
United States and Canada.
An Impressive History
The history of the Teamsters is a
record of accomplishment and a model of success for the American labor movement.
Under the leadership of its second President, Daniel Tobin (1907-1952), the
Teamsters set on a path toward organizing workers and a goal of raising living
The Teamsters enjoyed years of union-friendly
administrations, most notably during Franklin D. Roosevelt's presidency. FDR
helped workers through initiatives that pulled the nation out of the Great Depression
and that put Americans back to work. Despite setbacks -- such as the Taft-Hartley
Act of 1947, which served to restrict and limit labor's influence -- the Teamsters
have achieved, and continue to achieve, major victories for labor.
Under President James R. Hoffa's
leadership, membership reached 1.5 million strong in 1957. And in 1964 he was
successful in negotiating the first National Master Freight Agreement, a watershed
event for the labor movement. The National Master Freight Agreement moved more
workers into the middle class than any other event in labor history. The agreement
covered 400,000 Teamsters employed by some 16,000 trucking companies and spawned
similar bargaining agreements in other Teamster trades and crafts.
Despite trying times during the Reagan
era of anti-union policies, the union developed a stronger, more democratic
vision in the late 1990s under the leadership of General President James P.
Hoffa. At the 2001 Teamsters convention, a historic amendment enshrined the
concept of "one member, one vote" as a permanent component of the
union's constitution. "One member, one vote" protected the members'
voice in the union and created a truly democratic system for the direct election
of International officers.
In 2005, the Teamsters made a historic
break from the AFL-CIO to join six affiliated unions with six million members
in the Change to Win federation.
A Bright Future
Membership is growing. The Teamsters
Union has refocused its energy on organizing more workers. By enlisting every
Teamster member into its Army of Organizers, the union is spreading the word
on the rewards of union membership - better pay, better benefits and respect
in the work place. Our members know that they are the power behind the union.
They stand together on the job, at the ballot box and in their communities to
make a better tomorrow.