Thursday, June 21, 2018

The Snoop

"We gotta stop this snoopy columnist." Jimmy Hoffa furrowed his brow. "He can't keep his nose out of our business."

"Johnny Dio" Dioguardi then sent death threats to columnist Victor Riesel, but Riesel kept on broadcasting his anti-labor show.

"We could off him." Dio raised a single black eyebrow.

Jimmy shook his head. "Too fuckin' easy. I want Riesel to know what he did wrong."

Then about 2 a.m., April 5, 1956, Riesel left the radio station after broadcasting his usual anti-labor program. He and his secretary walked to Lindy's to unwind. They left the restaurant about 3 a.m. 

Then Abraham Telvi, a slender, black-haired man, stepped out of the shadows and threw a vial of sulphuric acid into Riesel's eyes.


"My gosh!" Riesel shouted. He staggered. "My gosh!"

The secretary dragged Riesel into Lindy's to flush his face with water, but acid ate his eyeballs. 

Outside, Telvi sauntered away, trying to wipe a splash of acid off his face. 

"I should'a got more than five hundred bucks," he groused.

Thursday, June 14, 2018

The Election Win

Dad was no longer in the trucking business, but the NLRB--and Weinberg--marched right on with hearing after hearing, most issues old.

First, they dealt with the Coffey's Transfer election. Harold L. Hudson, Field Examiner for NLRB, notified my dad that ballots would be counted in Lincoln on March 28, and invited Dad to witness it.

Dad groaned at the prospect of watching ballots counted for a nonexistent business. Maybe his friend, Ray Osborn, would represent him.

"Why don't you just not go?" My finger held my place in the controversial novel, Peyton Place.

"If I win that election, it will prove that the Teamster strike was illegal, and I could sue them for running me out of business."

"Is that what you're planning to do?"

"Maybe. The odds are a bit stiff. The Teamsters have never settled with anyone, Smith says. But I might try."

Thursday, June 7, 2018


He weighed 325 pounds, used his girth to bump people into place in picket lines and to bounce offending taxicabs into the river. 

He ate gargantuan meals, paying $15 to $30 each ($136 to $272 in 2017 dollars). 

And he drove a brand-new, bright red Cadillac convertible, a gift. On the front seat lay a shotgun, cleaned, primed and ready to go. A sign on the back bumper read "Clergy" to avoid tickets. 

His name was Robert B. "Barney" Baker and he was Hoffa's toughest hoodlum, a twice-convicted thug, once a prizefighter, a strong-arm man on New York docks, a bouncer. 

Hoffa sent Barney to Alma to organize my father's Coffey's Transfer.

Dad and Barney argued.

"You know you need signatures from fifty-one per cent of my men," Dad said, "before you can claim to represent them legally."

"Dat don matter." Barney shrugged. "Hoffa sez weeze gonna organize yooze from the top down." The huge thug drew a line with his forefinger from his forehead to his belly as though he had filleted a trout.

Thursday, May 31, 2018

Tic Douloureux

One day in May 1954, my father staggered under a sharp, stabbing, incapacitating throb on the right side of his face. He felt as though someone had smacked him with a hot poker.

The local doctor sent Dad to Mayo Clinic. "Tic douloureux is one of the most unbearable nerve disorders known to humans," the Mayo doctor said, "certainly more painful than a migraine headache, even more painful than childbirth." He set a date for surgery.

Dad returned to his top-floor hotel room in Rochester, Minnesota, to wait. He walked to the window. As he stared down at the street, he thought about jumping.

It wasn't just his tic douloureux. It was the Teamsters. 

True, Jimmy had not bothered him for several years, but Dad watched the little guy creep closer and closer to Nebraska. Along with Jimmy moved his gangsters. 

Thursday, May 24, 2018


Jimmy flew into Nebraska from New York when his Teamster contract with Dad's truckline lapsed on June 1, 1950.

And wouldn't you know it,  Jimmy wanted Dad to sign that same old Central States contract, the one with that terrible featherbedding clause they'd fought about in 1947 until "The Little Guy" had dropped that clause.

Dad protested.

"Sign or strike," Jimmy said.

Dad, still unhappy with his 1947 contract that transformed his twenty-five drivers into Teamsters, decided to resist. 

He collected from his drivers all those union cards that Hoffa's contract had forced Dad to distribute. He returned them to the Teamsters.

Then my father hunkered down for a fight.

Thursday, May 17, 2018

The Big Cheese

The wind whipped Teamster Jimmy Hoffa's dark brush cut. He caught his breath as he stepped out of the airliner, hat in hand, that May 1947. Back in bush-league Nebraska after nine fuckin' years. He saw an empty paper cup streak by as he strode across the tarmac. 

Think of that, a damned greenhorn then. But no longer. Now a Big Cheese. Got every Detroit Teamster riding in my blasted hip pocket. Plus most of Michigan state's damned locals, for cripes' sake. He jutted his chin out. And now it's me negotiatin' a single contract for fuckin' 125,000 drivers in twelve Midwestern states. 

Includin', these bumble-fuck Nebraska truckers. 

Except for this Coffey's Transfer Company. Coffey just don't get it. 

Thursday, May 10, 2018

“Faster, Faster!”

I was still fifteen that May 1953 when the Harlan County Dam halted the Republican River and created a huge lake almost seven miles long.

Dad and I had looked forward to this day. Together we'd built a big wooden boat from a kit. I started hundreds of screws, and he finished them.

At last we launched the big boat. Out across the huge Harlan County Reservoir we spun! 

I took my turn with my sisters riding on the flat surfboard Dad towed behind the boat. 

How I loved the speed and the spray!

"Faster, faster," I screamed, and Dad would rev his big engine up, watch me fly across the glimmering water. 

Then he cut the engine and grinned as my surfboard slowly submerged, and I fought immersion.