Teamsters Union

In 1903, a pair of organized labor groups, the Team Drivers International Union and the Teamsters National Union, merged and created the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, Chauffeurs, Warehouseman, and Helpers of America, also known as the IBT. Las Vegas barely existed as a dot on the map. They never could have imagined how their actions would affect the development of that city.

Later called the Teamsters Union, the organization was made up mostly of truck drivers, and led by Daniel J. Tobin from 1907 to 1952. Tobin's long stewardship established the Teamsters as a feisty and independent union. He refused to join other unions, or strikes by other unions, and used the threat of strikes by his member truck drivers to pressure trucking business owners to sign wage and benefits contracts. By 1940, the Teamsters were the largest private-sector union in the United States.

But scandal would rock the union soon after Tobin left. Following a U.S. Senate investigation of the union, Dave Beck, Tobin's successor, was convicted of larceny and tax evasion in 1958. Beck's successor, James R. "Jimmy" Hoffa, would soon make deals with organized crime figures and take part in labor racketeering. Hoffa was convicted of fraud in 1967 but remained president until 1971. He disappeared and was presumed murdered by mob associates in 1975.

A major source of Hoffa's power was his control of the union's Central States Pension Fund, which loaned tens of millions of dollars to a slew of Nevada casino projects—many operated by people with ties to organized crime—and other developments, mostly in Las Vegas, from the 1950s to the 1970s.

The Teamsters' last casino loan, arranged by union official Allen Dorfman, amounting to more than $62 million, went to Allen Glick of the Argent Corporation to buy the Stardust and Fremont hotels, in 1974. Allegations of corruption and misuse of the pension fund by Dorfman and other union leaders led to still more criminal convictions in the 1980s. Frank E. Fitzsimmons, Hoffa's successor, ran the union until his death in 1981. The next union president, Roy Williams, was convicted of trying to bribe a U.S. Senator the next year. Jackie Presser, who took over as president in 1982, was indicted for embezzling union funds and hiring organized crime figures for no-show jobs.

Reform started in 1989, when the Teamsters agreed to settle a civil racketeering suit and allowed the U.S. government to monitor its activities. An outside trustee oversaw an election among the union's rank and file members, who in 1991 elected Ronald Carey, who promised to continue to improve the union. But Carey himself was later accused of misusing campaign funds during a 1996 reelection effort in which he defeated Hoffa's son, James P. Hoffa, Jr. The union ousted Carey and replaced him with Hoffa in 1998.

Though its scandalous days appear to be a thing of the past, the Teamsters union has maintained a reputation for independence. In 2005, the Teamsters and the Service Employees International Union split from the AFL-CIO, a compilation of many unions, and together formed a separate labor organization called the Change to Win Federation.

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