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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One of Daniel Tobin’s first acts as General President was appointing John M. Gillespie as the first International General Organizer. Gillespie finished out his term as a Business Agent for Local 25 and began his service on behalf of the International Union in 1908. Working out of Local 25 headquarters at 165 Causeway Street in South Boston, Gillespie covered the New England and the New York regions, though he often traveled further to help with labor-management and jurisdictional disputes.
Tobin was elected General President of the Teamsters International at the 1907 convention by a margin of just 12 votes out of some 200 delegates. He was 35 years old when he assumed the reins and earned a salary of $1,800 per year. He promised his wife Ann that he would only take the job for a year, hoping that he could achieve union unity in that time.
Daniel Tobin’s story is in large part the story of the American Labor Movement during the tumultuous first half of the 20th century. For most American workers of the period, earning a living meant toiling for long hours for near slave wages, further burdened by work schedules determined at the employer’s whim. Alternatives to these poor conditions were few and a worker’s efforts to change his or her circumstance put one’s livelihood in jeopardy, with no safety net on which to fall back.