On May 21, Labor’s International Hall of Fame will be inducting Teamsters long-time General President Daniel J. Tobin at its 2015 Induction Ceremony. In honor of the visionary labor leader’s long-deserved induction, the Teamsters History Project will be honoring Tobin’s life and legacy. Over the next 45 days, we will take a look at each of his 45 years as Teamsters General President. You can follow along on this post, and by following us on our social media pages.
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During his first run for the White House in 1932, New York Governor Franklin D. Roosevelt needed strong support from the labor movement. In order for the economic recovery efforts to succeed, he would have prove himself a loyal believer in the cause.
In the April 1931 issue of the International Teamster, Dan Tobin takes to the page to address members with one of his most forward-thinking editorials yet. The depression, still in full force at this time, has left Tobin impatient. He wants change – both economic and social – and he wants it quick.
The Great Depression hit the unions hard — organizing efforts decreased, memberships declined, and treasuries struggled to stay afloat. Violence increased as many union men and women went on strike to protest the return of slavish working conditions a generation earlier.
On 24 October 1929, panic selling began on Wall Street and prices fell catastrophically, as the stock market crashed. Business confidence disappeared, banks failed and industry slumped -- but Dan Tobin knew immediately it was the American worker who would suffer most.
When Tobin attempted to obtain AFL endorsement of the candidacy of Democrat Alfred E. Smith in the 1928 presidential election, AFL President William Green forced a resolution through the AFL Executive Council which reaffirmed the federation's nonpartisan policy. Tobin resigned as treasurer of the AFL in anger. Although Green and others feared the Teamsters might withdraw from the federation, Tobin assured the Executive Council he had no intention of doing so.
By 1927, the state of the labor movement needed all the help it could get, and there was no better orator or writer to convey the necessary message for the tough economic times than Dan Tobin. Keenly aware of financial difficulties, the 20-year leader of labor's most successful union had earned the respect to espouse constant advice in countless speeches and articles throughout 1927, giving money-saving tips and. Concerned with the plight of working families, Tobin increased the union effort to promote wage scales and increase solidarity between union members of all trades and affiliations.
During the 3-part series of articles, from November 1925 to February 1926, Tobin reports from overseas during another meeting of the League of Nations in Geneva, traveling throughout Europe on a trip that appears to be both personal and business.
Tobin and Gompers had shared a bond, and it’s impossible to understand the Teamsters Union without recognizing Gompers’ impact on the fledgling union. The tribute to his “life-long friend” focused not on his role in labor but his impact on the country, seeking to honor his citizenry. Of all the accomplishments, Tobin, a fellow immigrant and outsider, channeled the patriotism of the labor legend.