Jimmy Hoffa rose to power in the Teamsters through the 1940s-50s — reportedly with help from the mafia. According to sources, his relationship with organized crime resulted in Hoffa being elected international president in 1957 around the same time he opened up the labor union’s pension fund for access by his mob buddies, used primarily to build and then skim Las Vegas casinos.
Imprisoned on bribery and jury tampering charges in the late 1960s, Hoffa gave up the union presidency to his vice-president and protegé Frank Fitzsimmons, who arranged a White House pardon by Richard Nixon in late 1971.
Hoffa’s pardon held in it a clause that he could not run for the Teamsters presidency again until 1980. Upon his release from incarceration, Hoffa decided to fight the ban on him running, a move that is not welcomed by his former allies in the mob, happy with Fitzsimmons in the slot, since he is considerably easier to deal with. Approaching the mob for their support, Hoffa was rebuffed. Instead, he went on a two-year media campaign and according to some, begins working with the FBI, to try and convince the public and the government that he’s a changed man and if allowed to run in ’76 intends to rid the union of its longstanding and widespread mafia influence.
Obviously, this didn’t sit well with the mob. Sending a series of emissaries, Hoffa was reportedly told to “quiet down” and relent in his quest to reclaim power in the Teamsters. According to mob insiders, he refused, threatening the mob’s hold on the union and through it, its control over Las Vegas/the union pension fund.
Sources talking Burnstein say a murder contract was placed on Hoffa’s life in early 1975. The crime families in Detroit, Chicago, Pennsylvania and New York City allegedly coordinated efforts to lure Hoffa out in the open is a meeting with east coach mafia leader Tony Provenzano, which was supposed to take place the day Hoffa went missing. The pair had once been close friends and were fighting, but Hoffa needed Provenzano’s support — since he controlled large amounts of delegates in the election — if he wanted to win in ’76.
Local mafia expert and author Scott Burnstein contributed to this report.