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A Look Back... 1998

Teamsters Union: Hoffa Wins Presidency

James P. Hoffa was elected president of the Teamster's Union according to results announced on December 7, 1998. Hoffa pledged to strengthen the union that his father, James R. Hoffa, led from 1957 to 1971.

Hoffa won about 55 percent of the vote. His nearest competitor, Tom Leedham, won about 39 percent. A third candidate, John Metz, won about 6 percent. During the campaign Hoffa's opponents accused him of representing corrupt influences within the union, an accusation Hoffa rejected.

Hoffa's family name was one of the strengths of his campaign. Hoffa's father, popularly known as Jimmy, built the Teamsters into one of the strongest unions in the United States and was extremely popular among rank-and-file union members. But Jimmy Hoffa's alleged ties with organized crime drew government attention and are thought to have led to his mysterious disappearance in 1975.

Leedham, meanwhile, ran on an anticorruption platform and pledged to include rank-and-file members in union activities and decisions. Leedham also questioned whether Hoffa, a labor lawyer, had the experience to serve as president.

In postelection statements Hoffa said he would rebuild the union's finances and seek new members among public employees and health workers. He also called for an end to a 1989 arrangement under which the federal government dropped racketeering charges against the Teamsters in return for oversight of union affairs.

Hoffa first ran for president of the Teamsters in 1996 when he lost to then-President Ron Carey. The election results were overturned in 1997, however, after monitors found Carey's campaign was financed illegally. Carey was barred from running again and was eventually expelled from the union. The Teamsters represent about 1.4 million workers in a number of industries, including the trucking, warehouse, and food industries.

Story provided by Encarta