Teamsters Local 743’s organizing at Montgomery Ward shows how organizing labor worked in the postwar American “mixed-economy” capitalism by straddling both legitimate and illicit channels of commerce and power. Using this win as a springboard, with entrepreneurial zeal, the union’s president, Don Peters, built the largest Teamsters local in the nation. The union developed an extensive service apparatus, instituted internal organizing and education, fostered a presence in public life, and followed a constant and creative organizing agenda in tune with a changing metropolitan workforce and economy. At the same time, Peters associated with organized crime, particularly through insurance and pension activity and small-scale organizing beyond the mail-order industry. The union made bread-and-butter issues a priority but also addressed the social and political interests of its diverse membership. The historic win at Montgomery Ward served at the base of Peters’s empire and was the first step in the construction of a distinctive entrepreneurial unionism.

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