Teamster History: 1915, Life in Indianapolis

Posted: April 25, 2015
Source: Teamster.org

The International Headquarters in Indianapolis was a modest building with only a few employees, including General President Tobin and General Secretary-Treasurer Hughes.The International Headquarters in Indianapolis was a modest building with only a few employees, including General President Tobin and General Secretary-Treasurer Hughes. Tobin and Hughes worked in lockstep to grow the union nationwide. Both men were extremely proud that the International was financially secure, and both men are credited with putting the finance system in place that is still in use today. After years of financial struggle, the Teamsters Union had finally found its footing thanks to the young General President’s forward-thinking vision for the union.

By 1915 the treasury was the soundest it had ever been, noted Tobin at that 1915 convention, adding: “Our local unions have the largest degree of autonomous rights of any local unions in the American Federation of Labor. We permit you under our present laws, to hold in your local treasuries at least 90 percent of the money you collect from the membership. Many organizations of labor take at least 50 or 60 percent of the total collection from the membership into the International Treasury.”

Although Tobin received the lion’s share of the credit, the success of the treasury was mostly due to the oversight of the young Secretary-Treasurer. Hughes’ keen oversight and wise approach to spending began in 1906, when he was elected to the second highest position in the union. Years of poor decisions and frivolous spending by Tobin’s predecessor, Cornelius Shea.

While Hughes became an active resident of Indianapolis, involving himself in community service and charity work for the city, Tobin preferred his privacy. He spent his hours outside the office reading and writing in his small, dimly-lit room at the Indianapolis Grand Hotel for $2.50 a day, corresponding in letters and telegrams with other prominent labor leaders like AFL President Samuel Gompers and UMWA President John L. Lewis over issues facing the union effort.

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