What Passes for Labor History

What Passes for Labor History

Tentacles of Power: The Story of Jimmy Hoffa
by Clark R. Mollenhoff
World, 415 pp., $6.50

Hoffa and the Teamsters: A Study of Union Power
by Ralph C. James and Estelle Dinerstein James
Van Nostrand, 430 pp., $6.95


Clark R. Mollenhoff’s book reduces the problem of corruption in American society and the labor movement to the level of a TV script with Mollenhoff cast in the role of a journalistic Elliot Ness. The author does not concede the legitimate function of trade unions like the Teamsters, and he seems to be unaware that most of its members are ordinary Americans. He hardly criticizes the trucking industry and the American political system of favors and deals; his villain is Hoffa.

Mollenhoff unwittingly supports Hoffa’s argument which is in part the basis for his appeal to the Supreme Court. Mollenhoff writes, “The  Justice Department made the decision to seek an indictment in Nashville to avoid the Detroit political jungle that Hoffa knew so well. In addition, the Nashville Tennessean had just hired a new editor—John Seigenthaler, who in 1961 and 1962 had served as an administrative assistant to Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy