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Teamster History

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 standards.

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.

     
 
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Teamster News Headlines
 
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Top Issues
  • This Web page provides the latest updates for the national contract, riders and supplements that cover about 3,500 Teamsters at DHL Express.

  • We Are eXPOsing XPO’s Global Greed

    XPO Logistics is a top ten global logistics and transportation company with annual revenue of $15 billion and 89,000 employees, another 10,000 workers classified as independent contractors, and thousands more working for firms that subcontract with XPO. We are the REAL workers at XPO Logistics worldwide exposing the truth about the company’s global greed, illegal wage theft, unsafe conditions, and abhorrent and vicious anti-worker, anti-union tactics. 

    This greed includes mistreating former Con-way Freight workers in the United States who are being kept in the dark about terminal closures and layoffs, and the company’s illegal refusal to bargain contracts and denying their workers’ federally protected right to organize. It also includes port, rail and last-mile drivers around the country and in Southern California fighting wage theft in excess of $200 million because they are misclassified as independent contractors and denied the right to form their union. This greed has caused numerous lawsuits and strikes.  Greed also means an unsafe workplace and mistreating its warehouse employees.

    XPO’s greed extends to Europe beginning with breaking its promise to not layoff any workers for at least 18 months. French workers and the unions have been fighting back against XPO’s disrespect, lies and attempts to slash jobs. Similar struggles are taking place in Great Britain, Spain, Belgium, the Netherlands, and across Europe.

    Join the worldwide struggle now! Get involved with this campaign by joining the Facebook group “XPO Exposed.”

    Together, we can eXPOse the company’s global greed and win fairness, respect and dignity for tens of thousands of XPO employees around the world!

  • This page provides the latest contract information to the 7,500 Teamsters—drivers, dockworkers and office staff—employed by ABF Freight System, Inc.

  • Workers’ pensions are being endangered by both Congress and those charged with overseeing them. The Teamsters and our members are standing united to say “No!” to cuts and “Yes!” to greater retirement security!

  • The ‘Let’s Get America Working!’ campaign seeks to restore a dynamic and prosperous middle class to drive economic growth by helping to advance policy decisions that create and maintain good middle-income jobs, guarantee retirement security, expand access to the American Dream, and ensure that the benefits of the ongoing economic recovery are felt by the many, not just the few.

  • This webpage provides information on the Teamsters Union’s legislative advocacy at both the federal and state level as well as our field activity to support those policy positions and to get strong labor candidates elected to office.  Among other resources, you will find our federal legislative scorecard, formal statements of policy position and communications to Capitol Hill,  a weekly update on federal legislative happenings, an overview of bills we are tracking at the state level, and quick links to take action on priority issues.

  • This web page provides information on the ongoing effort to renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). Since 1994, NAFTA has devastated working families, putting corporate profits ahead of people.  What’s worse is that NAFTA has become the blueprint for all other trade agreements, from the way that it was negotiated in secret, to the bad provisions that have made their way into every agreement that has been signed since then.  Now, NAFTA is being renegotiated and we demand that it be reframed to work for workers instead of corporate interests.

  • The Teamsters have stood in solidarity with worker struggles in other countries since our founding. With economic globalization, our ability to organize increasingly depends on our ability to build alliances with workers on a global scale.
    More than ever, Teamsters are organizing and bargaining with multi-national companies. A key objective of our Global Strategies Campaign is to build strong alliances with unions around the globe who organize and bargain with common employers. Our focus is on workers in the emerging global supply chains – the infrastructure of globalization.
    Globalization creates new opportunities for international worker solidarity. We seek common cause with workers around the world to build social justice for all workers and the communities in which they live.

  • The contributions of black members to the success of the Teamsters Union are numerous, varied and as old as the union itself. This month, the Teamsters Union spotlights some of those contributions.

 
     
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