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Teamster History: 1921, Union Politics

Posted: May 20, 2015

The Gompers Dispute file photoThe year following the death of his first wife was particularly tough for Dan Tobin. Balancing work between the Teamsters and the AFL, all while juggling life between Indianapolis and Boston, left the Teamsters General President and AFL Secretary-Treasurer with little patience for ineffective leadership. Although the IBT continued to run smoothly under thanks to devoted International leaders like Tom Hughes, Mike Casey and John Gillespie, Tobin was growing tired of the infighting between members of the AFL Executive Board.

AFL President Samuel Gompers, one of Tobin’s close friends and most influential mentors, had always been cautiousness in supporting pro-labor initiatives. Never one to bite his tongue, Tobin became infuriated by the old man’s decision to oppose unemployment legislation. In September of 1921, nearly a year to the day after his wife’s death, Tobin attempted to resign from his post as AFL Secretary-Treasurer in response. Gompers, fearing workers would become dependent on government handouts, argued workers may become reliant on government support at the expense of union membership. Tobin, however, strongly supported the initiative, seeing it as a safety net for the workers most in need of help.

Gompers would inevitably concede Tobin’s point, pledging the full support of the AFL in favor of the unemployment law, but he refused to accept Tobin’s resignation. Although the newspapers reported that Tobin had left the post, he would inevitably continue serving under Gompers as AFL Secretary-Treasurer.

— Read the complete source story.