Taking His Battle To The Top Local Teamsters Leader Has A Good Shot At International Vp Job

Posted: June 06, 1991

John Morris, head of Teamsters Local 115 in Philadelphia and president of the 55-local Pennsylvania Joint Conference of Teamsters, seems a shoo-in for election as an international vice president of the Teamsters union in a court- ordered balloting this fall.

Not that he is claiming that. He says only that he thinks he has the support of union people who are otherwise at odds about who should be elected as the Teamsters' new president.

Morris has been a longtime critic of his union's top leadership. He talks with contempt about leaders who take home lavish salaries, who use worker's dues to buy themselves private airplanes, who enjoy, as he puts it, "the country-club life."

"They forget who they represent," he says scornfully.

Still he has mixed emotions about the coming election because it is taking place under court supervision. Morris says that "in the long run," this election, the first direct, secret-ballot election ever conducted by the Teamsters, "might be better for us if it carries out its purpose getting members involved in the union. But it's not pleasant to have to do what a judge tells you."

Morris thinks the courts are not as willing to clamp down on corporate villainy as they are on abuses in unions. "The subtle violence done by business owners against workers is overlooked. Corporate corruption is discovered and nothing happens," he grouses.

Morris is seeking to become one of the three vice presidents who will represent the 557,000-member Eastern Teamsters Conference, which includes the area from Maine to South Carolina.

There are now only three announced candidates for the three slots. But others could be nominated at the annual Teamsters convention to be held at the end of this month. Balloting will take place in December.

Morris admits, "I wouldn't have had a chance to run for vice president, if not for this decree. They (current Teamsters leadership) would never have picked me."

Never.

Morris derided his union's national leaders for endorsing both Ronald Reagan and George Bush for the presidency, despite policies that, in his view, have been disastrous for working people.

"The Reagan administration took food stamps from the unemployed, took welfare benefits from strikers," Morris says. "The Bush administration reduces education benefits for working people. If vets are homeless, they don't care."

John Morris has what his aides refer to as "fire in the belly" when it comes to championing the cause of ordinary people versus the rich.

"Bosses get bonuses while workers are being laid off," he says.

Morris is known for his fiery rhetoric. "The working men of this country do all the dying, all the bleeding, all the working in all the wars," he said at a recent union rally. "The troops in Saudi Arabia didn't grow up on the Main Line. They come from the picket line."

But he is also known for action. His base, Philadelphia Teamsters Local 115, sponsors training sessions for union organizers, actively organizes workers and produces both cash and workers for political campaigns. It also has produced a book used both by Teamsters and other unions on strike strategy and strike law. Morris gets involved whenever legislation or corporate action may affect Teamster jobs in Pennsylvania.

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