LABOR: The Engine Inside the Hood

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While trucking-industry management generally likes Hoffa and looks upon him with some awe, bigger fish tend to fear him. At the biggest dinner of its kind ever held in Detroit, more than 2,600 well-wishers last year paid $100 apiece in honor of Hoffa's 25 years in the labor movement (proceeds for a children's home in Israel). Scores of important names in the Midwest seized the chance to shake the hard, square hand of Hoffa. And though General Motors, Ford and Chrysler employ only 500 Teamsters (out of a total payroll list of 800,000), the auto industry sent big men: a General Motors vice president, a Ford vice president, and a Chrysler industrial-relations executive. One reason: Jimmy Hoffa's Teamsters truck most of America's cars from assembly points to dealerships around the country.

Cons & Confidence. The mark of Hoffa's skill is that he has been able to win widespread confidence on both sides of the bargaining table while borrowing money under curious circumstances from businessmen with Teamster contracts, consorting with hoods and ruthlessly pushing around local Teamster leaders who got in his way. He teamed up with New York Racketeer Johnny Dio to discredit old-time Teamster Vice President Tom Hickey and to dethrone Martin Lacey from the presidency of the powerful New York Teamsters Joint Council 16 (some 60 locals). Hoffa succeeded ultimately: his man John O'Rourke finally became president of the council. Now Old Teamster Hickey is standing up in opposition to Hoffa's bid for the Teamsters' presidency, but not even Hickey thinks he will have a chance when the I.B.T. holds its convention in Miami Beach this month.

The mark of Hoffa's brazen determination to get what he wants any way he can was his performance in the early days of the Senate Labor Rackets investigation. New York Lawyer John Cye Cheasty swore that Hoffa hired him to spy on the committee's investigative work. When Hoffa was arrested and tried on bribery and conspiracy charges before a jury of eight Negroes and four whites, Hoffa's good "friend," ex-Heavyweight Boxing Champion Joe Louis, made a conspicuous show of himself in the courtroom. During the trial John Cheasty noted a recurrent Hoffa action. Jimmy, he said, would wait till the jury's eyes were turned from him, then raise a hand as if to rub his neck. Cheasty saw what Hoffa wanted him to see: a Hoffa thumb zipping across the throat in an unmistakable gesture of a knife slit. Translation: Hoffa's description of what could happen to Cheasty.

Once acquitted of the bribery charge, Hoffa, before the McClellan committee, boldly took the "I don't recall" amendment. As the committee rolled out evidence of his sordid dealings with Dio and other racketeers, Hoffa's close friend and unofficial chief of staff, Harold Gibbons, Teamster boss in St. Louis, spoke the defense that seems to satisfy a lot of Teamsters: "Is it all right for Dulles to deal with a whore like Saud, or a bum like Franco to get his objectives? Hoffa found he had to work with Dio to bring his people into the union. When you work with a man to win an objective, you can't turn around and spit in his face. Working with Dio for a certain goal doesn't lower Jimmy's moral standards. He has the highest moral standards of anyone."

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