Teamsters Leader Removed
By Meki Cox Associated Press Writer
Monday, Nov. 15, 1999
PHILADELPHIA The national Teamsters removed the top officer of a city local Monday after union investigators accused him of intimidating and shaking down union members for cash and stockpiling weapons for what he called a "war."
John P. Morris, 73, was secretary-treasurer of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters Local Union 115 for more than four decades. He remains president of a statewide conference of Teamster locals.
Greg Tarpinian, a consultant with the national Teamsters, said Morris used union money to purchase two shotguns, 20 stun guns, pepper spray, boxes of combat fatigues and boots, two cars, two campers and five buses, which he stored on rented property five miles from union headquarters.
"These purchases were in preparation for what Morris describes as 'war,'" according to a statement by the Washington-based union, signed by President James P. Hoffa.
Hoffa said Local 115's leadership had "placed the membership in jeopardy."
Union officials wouldn't elaborate on what kind of war Morris might have been preparing for.
Morris, speaking to local television stations, defended some of the purchases, including generators and the stun guns, but did not discuss the other allegations. He could not be reached Monday night for comment.
Local union members defended Morris, rallying outside their headquarters Monday night.
"It's a bunch of lies," yelled union member Harold Fisher.
Union officials did not say whether they would seek criminal charges against Morris.
Morris recently purchased a building behind the headquarters so that if the national Teamsters took over the local, "he would burn the Local down and operate the Local from this building. He also referred to this building as a sniper's or sharpshooter's nest," the national Teamsters' statement said.
The headquarters were converted into a barracks with sleeping quarters for about 30 people and a fully equipped kitchen and mess hall for 160 people, the union said.
"The threat was extraordinary, with all the money expended on things unrelated to the local union. But the biggest threat was to individual members who were harassed physically and emotionally," Tarpinian said.
Local 115, with 2,700 members, was placed under the emergency trusteeship of Edward Keyser, secretary-treasurer of Local 500 in Philadelphia, Tarpinian said.
The union also alleged that Morris colluded with employers to help union members who were loyal to him and demanded required union stewards to collect thousands of dollars in cash from members as a Christmas gift to him.
Morris made $184,423 in union salary last year.
© Copyright 1999 The Associated Press