During the 19th century, before motor trucks there were horse-drawn carriages. These carriages were the lifeline of America, making trade and transportation a possibility. Team drivers, or teamsters were at the wheel.
These men worked up to 18 hour days, seven days a week, earning an average of $2 a day.
In 1901, tired of the poor treatment, the teamsters formed the Team Drivers International Union. Two years after that in Niagara Falls, New York. The union as we know it today formed. 1903 is the birth year for the International Brotherhood of Teamsters.
Then came the fall of 1929, a year when Teamsters and all Americans were tested. The Great Depression left many workers at the mercy of their employers.
Tom Keegel is the Secretary Treasurer for the Teamsters, he says, "The employers could abuse workers because they had hundreds waiting for a job. It was their call, they could do anything they want. They totally exploited workers."
In 1934, workers in nearly every industry went on strike, a strike that turned deadly. Three months of protest and violence ended when President Roosevelt intervened in favor of the union, granting them more rights in the workplace.
Three decades later, under the leadership James R. Hoffa, January 15, 1964 became a day now en-grained in Teamster history. That day, the first National Master Freight Agreement was signed.
Longtime Teamster, Frank Hackett says, "Before that, we didn't have any dignity, no pension, no health or welfare funds."
The agreement allowed for standardized protection and benefits for workers. To this day it's considered a milestone for all labor unions. When this went into effect, Teamsters say they started getting raises of up to 50 cents an hour.
Teamster membership grew to more than two million. Today that membership is still high with almost one and a half million members.
The Teamsters span North America, stretching through the United States, Canada and Puerto Rico. And their influence is growing, specifically in the Sunshine State.
Ken Wood with the Teamsters, says, "Florida is probably one of the fastest growing states in organizing. We have been very successful in the last several years in organizing. There's a lot of potential out there but we are organizing."
Just this past December, the Teamsters recruited Florida corrections officers.
Jerry Loggins is a correctional officer and says, "Teamsters came out to us, they talked to us, very well and they were a part of stopping privatization down south. They're just good people who are out to help."
Adding to their historic fight for pension plans, weekends and the eight hour workday. Teamster representatives are now fighting against many Florida lawmakers who want to privatize Florida prisons.
Just this session, a slew of corrections officers with Teamster reps by their side, have been pleading with lawmakers and fighting against privatization. Corrections officers say they hope the union's reputation of taking the hammer back in a fight will eventually hit the nail on the head for a win at the Florida capitol.
Teamsters represent many groups in Florida, including some maintenance workers, school bus driver in police officers in areas throughout the state.
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