On January 30, 1957 the United States Senate Select Committee on Improper Activities in Labor and Management was created to investigate corruption in American labor unions. Designated with the role of Chief Counsel was a young attorney who later went on to become attorney general and 1968 democratic presidential hopeful, Robert F. Kennedy. In this memoir of his time on the committee, Kennedy recounts the exhaustive investigative efforts of those who served on the committee in an effort to shed light on the nefarious dealings of union and labor officials and effect reform throughout the United States. At the center of the committee’s target lay James R. Hoffa and his International Brotherhood of Teamsters. Starting with Dave Beck, Kennedy carefully reconstructs the deeply seated mismanagement of union funds resulting in the most opulent lifestyles for top officials. Facing a culture in place for many years, Kennedy and his staff are met with opposition and resistance to efforts to probe into the dark side of American labor unions. It’s no secret that Kennedy and Hoffa had a strong distaste for each other and on more than one occasion, Hoffa threatened the future attorney general with physical violence. Kennedy would respond with his “get Hoffa squad” in an attempt to bring down the man who Kennedy believed was a menace to the American way of life.
Kennedy’s memoir serves as a step back into time when labor unions and the American criminal underworld were held together with strong ties resulting in a dark cloud hanging over workers throughout the nation. And while John Kennedy does make an appearance, this is Bobby’s show and he does not disappoint. Some of the most notorious figures in underworld history also make an appearance such as Johnny Dio, Joey Glimco, Larry and Joe Gallo. Their testimony and the anecdotes about their appearances before the committee are both humorous and mystifying. We see through Kennedy’s recollections and samples of committee testimony that a very dark side to American labor unions remained unknown to the American public for many years. But this phenomenal account one of America’s most defining eras, has stood the test of time as a go to source for information of the mission to stop the legendary and infamous James Riddle Hoffa. And as Kennedy reminds us at the end, in order for society to move forward and for justice to prevail, we must always be willing to confront the enemy within.