An interview with James P. Hoffa

By Lloyd and Noah Graff

LG: I’m curious about growing up in Detroit in a union family and what memories you have about dinner table conversations.

JH: I had a wonderful childhood. I had a wonderful father, a wonderful mother, great sister. My sister is a circuit judge in St. Louis. My early memories are talking union over the table, but also I remember in the ‘50s the whole family getting in the car, going to eat dinner somewhere and then going for a Sunday drive. UAW used to have a radio program, and we’d listen to it in the car. Invariably we’d end up on a picket line where my dad would say, “How’s the picket line going?” We’d end up pulling our car up and visiting with the pickets. I’d get out at 8 or 9 years old and be walking a picket line. I remember going to union meetings at an early age, sitting in these smoke filled meetings back in the late ‘40s, ‘50s and ‘60s. I remember at 18 years old my father swearing me into the union.

LG: Our readers are people in the machining business and people on machining floors, small and large manufacturers of the precision parts industry. I’m interested in how you see the intersection between the interests of the Teamsters and manufacturing.
JH: I think there’s tremendous intersection, because the Teamsters Union is one of the most outspoken unions with regard to the unfair trade practices going on. The fact is that American manufacturing is being eliminated by unfair trade deals where you have exports from China and Japan, South Korea, the Far East, India – driving the American manufacturers out of this market. That’s because of the trade policies being pursued by this administration and the Clinton administration. Both have one thing in common – basically unfair trade. Open the markets to everybody in the world and let them have trade barriers where they can create export economies that basically attack American industry with unfair exports into this country.

NG: We certainly see it.
JH: You see it every day, whether it was NAFTA or whether it was WTO, which Clinton did. To ship auto parts into China you face a 30 percent tariff. You can’t ship auto parts into South Korea. They have completely protected economies, but they have complete access to our economy. They ship stuff over by boatloads. Hyundai ships from South Korea, they put ramps down and drive thousands of cars off a ship in Baltimore. Now there’s no ship of Ford Focuses going over to Seoul, Korea, because they won’t allow it. Because of the trade bills they’ve been able to sucker us into, and we’ve been stupid enough to do, these companies have created an atmosphere where American manufacturing is at a disadvantage.

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