At the 1957 IBT convention held in Miami Beach, Fla., Jimmy Hoffa was elected President and the membership stood at 1.5 million. He brought a new energy and outlook to the union that fit the changing attitudes in the post-war years.
Despite some legislative assaults, such as the enactment of the Landrum-Griffin Act, the Teamsters grew in size and power from the late ’50s to the late ’70s. Unions grew and workers prospered as the middle-class reaped the benefits of the New Deal, the post-war surge and collective bargaining. Labor leaders like Teamsters General President Jimmy Hoffa commanded the public spotlight and shaped the debate.
The union used its position to better the lives of hardworking Teamster members. Seeking to expand their political clout, the Teamsters established DRIVE (Democrat, Republican, and Independent Voter Education) in 1959. DRIVE soon became America’s largest Political Action Committee (PAC).
In 1964, the National Master Freight Agreement was a watershed event for the Teamsters. It covered 400,000 members employed by some 16,000 trucking companies, and spawned similar bargaining in other Teamster trades and crafts. The Master Freight Agreement moved more workers into the middle class than any other event in labor history.
Teamsters were also at forefront in the battle for social justice. In 1965, the IBT contributed $25,000 to Dr. Martin Luther King’s Southern Christian Leadership Conference, the union’s largest monetary contribution to a social cause of the time. The Teamsters proudly supported Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and other advocates for civil rights reform at a time when such actions were considered risky, if not down right dangerous for any organization. Wherever working men and women marched for jobs, civil rights or justice, the Teamsters were there, including the unforgettable March On Washington in 1963.