Teamsters are members of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, one of the largest labor organizations in the world. In the United States alone, the Teamsters boasts 1.4 million members in a wide range of trades which includes trucking, publishing, and the theatrical trade. The union has acquired considerable clout in the United States, where it negotiates for its members with a range of entities. The Teamsters union also contributes to political campaigns, and it is one of the largest political contributors in the United States; an endorsement from the Teamsters is a coveted political accomplishment.
The Union was founded in 1903 as the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, Chauffeurs, Warehousemen, and Helpers of America. “Teamster,” incidentally, was a common term for someone who drove a cart pulled by a team of animals such as horses, mules, or oxen; two working animals appear on the logo for the union today. The union established itself as a craft union, meaning that members were separated into divisions which focused on specific trades. This division continues to this day; a Teamster must be a member of a specific division, such as Parcel and Small Package Division for teamsters who work for the United Parcel Service.
The Teamsters have a central office in Washington, DC which assists numerous local offices all over the North America. When someone joins the Teamsters, he or she interacts with the local union office. Locals have the power to set their own policies and they retain skilled staffs of their own. When locals require assistance, they can turn to the central office for help.
While some people think of the Teamsters as a trucker's union, Teamsters are found in a number of trades. Airline personnel, dairy employees, people who work in public service, food processors, port workers, rail workers, zookeepers, and warehouse staff can all be Teamsters. The Teamsters also work extensively in the motion picture and theater industry. Individual divisions of the Teamsters often support each other during labor negotiations and strikes. They also meet at annual conferences and other events which foster cooperation among all members of the Teamsters.
Members of the Teamsters are well known for supporting strike actions by other unions. Many Teamsters decline to cross picket lines and they will picket with members of other unions while they hold strikes. Given the size and clout of the Teamsters, their support can be very valuable for smaller trade unions.