The Infamous Connection Between Strawberries And Jimmy Hoffa

When most people hear the name Jimmy Hoffa, they think of his ties to the mafia and the speculation and rumors surrounding his suspicious disappearance in 1975. His body has still never been recovered, but that hasn't stopped the theories and myths of how he died from proliferating. One notable urban legend about Hoffa is that his body was buried under the old New York Giants football stadium in New Jersey (per The BBC).

Hoffa was a well-known labor organizer who rose to become the president of the powerful and influential labor union the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, a position in which he served from 1957-1971 (via All That's Interesting). He was also known to be connected to New Jersey mafia boss Anthony Provenzano. It was shortly after his relationship with Provenzano went south that Hoffa went missing.

The 2019 Martin Scorsese film "The Irishman" explores the link between Hoffa and the mob. But prior to his precipitous rise and fall, Hoffa's first foray into the labor union fight was organizing a strike involving strawberries.

Hoffa and the Strawberry Boys

As a teen, Hoffa helped coordinate a strike at a Kroger warehouse loading dock in Clinton, Indiana. He purposefully timed the strike to coincide with a delivery of a trailer of fresh strawberries, which he and his fellow employees refused to unload (via Metro Washington Labor Council).

Hoffa and his co-workers were protesting several things, including the low pay of the position and the fact that dock employees were often left waiting around for hours for shipments to arrive, while not being paid for their time. They were only compensated hourly when the shipments came and it was time to unload (per All That's Interesting).

Recognizing that time was of the essence to get the perishable strawberries unloaded and put on ice before they spoiled, management felt pressed to quickly work out a deal. They gave in to worker demands and reached a new labor contract with Hoffa, who led the negotiations, within an hour.

Dubbed the "Strawberry Boys," Hoffa and some of his labor compatriots from that Kroger strike would go on to join Teamsters Local 674, which later merged with Truck Drivers Local 299. Hoffa would grow the organization from a 40-member group with $400 into a more than 5,000-member group with $50,000.