Teamsters know the name of Jimmy Hoffa.
It belonged to one of the union's legendary leaders, James R. Hoffa - the man who rose to its top post and then, in 1975, disappeared and was presumed murdered.The name also belongs to his son, James P. Hoffa. And some members of Salt Lake City Teamsters Local 222 believe the younger Jimmy Hoffa will restore the organization's unity and pride.
Hoffa, 56, a 26-year member of the Teamsters, stopped in Salt Lake City Friday to raise money for his campaign to become the next general president of the union.
Hoffa narrowly lost the 1996 union presidential election to Ron Carey, who led the union to a victory in last year's United Parcel Service strike. But Carey later had his election thrown out by federal officials following an investigation into fund-raising abuses by his campaign.
Those abuses have put the Teamsters on the brink of bankruptcy, Hoffa said. He compared the union to a "ship without a rudder," saying it continues to lose members and support.
"We want to get this union back to where it should be, to unify this union," Hoffa said.
"(Members) know what's happened during the past five years . . . They want an international that works with the locals, not against them."
He said a date for a new election has yet to be set, but he expects it to fall in August or September. Hoffa currently is unopposed in the presidential race, and he said he is campaigning on his own time and at his own expense.
"We never lost sight of the fact that we were cheated and the membership was cheated in the last election," Hoffa said. "We play by the rules."
Hoffa said the Teamsters union has changed drastically since his father's days at its helm. Organizing is more difficult now, he said, and corporate America is trying harder to take away workers' quality of life.
"We have tremendous challenges with the part-time economy, with the type of throw-away worker that management wants today," he said. "We've got to change that trend."
Utah's Right to Work law makes union organizing here especially difficult, Hoffa said. But he said Utah Teamsters make good money and enjoy great contracts.
Ralph J. Taurone, secretary-treasurer of the Salt Lake local, is running for vice president at large on Hoffa's ticket. He said the Teamsters have about 3,700 members in Salt Lake City, and he is confident Hoffa's election could help that number grow.
Taurone echoed Hoffa's rallying cry, "We've got to reunite this union, bring all the factions together."
Chuck Knight, the business agent for Local 222, said he supported Hoffa in 1996 and continues to support him now.
"I think the members will rally around Jimmy Hoffa," Knight said. "You will see more strength here in Utah."
Larry Bogue, a 32-year Teamsters member who works for Consolidated Freightways in Salt Lake City, said he has met both Jimmy Hoffas. He can remember when the union had 6,000 members here, and he thinks those days can return.
"Because he is a Hoffa, I think everybody respects what his dad did," Bogue said. "We need more unions right now than ever before. He's got a good chance to bring back a lot more members here in Utah."
But Knight and Bogue do not think Hoffa's election is a sure thing. Knight said another faction within the Teamsters will run a strong candidate. Bogue agrees but thinks Hoffa will come out on top.
"The biggest challenge he's got is to get this union back on its feet because it's broke," Bogue said. "But he's got the support."