A longtime Teamsters leader is fighting the takeover of his local in court. John P. Morris asked a federal judge Tuesday to block his removal from the Philadelphia local he founded four decades ago.
The International Brotherhood of Teamsters declared emergency trusteeship of the 2,700-member Local 115 Nov. 15 and removed Morris as secretary-treasurer. He also was removed as president of the Pennsylvania Conference of Teamsters and of Philadelphia-area Joint Council 53.
Trusteeship documents said Morris used union funds to buy and stockpile an arsenal of weapons. They also claim that members of Morris' local were mistreated, and that Morris had arrangements with employers to fire union members he felt were not loyal.
However, a Morris aide defended him against charges that he ruled the local by fear and intimidation. Kenneth Woodring, chief of staff of the local, testified that Morris has a temper, but that "I would not say he is physically dangerous."
Morris claims his ouster is politically motivated. Morris has been a vocal opponent of Teamsters President James P. Hoffa. In the first day of the hearing, Morris' attorneys played a videotape of Hoffa during his presidential campaign, saying he pledged to end the tyranny of Morris' heavy-handed tactics at Local 115 if he were elected.
Hoffa's attorneys said the comment did not mean he was threatening retaliation against Morris. In fact, they pointed out that Hoffa went on to say on the same tape, "You should have the right to speak out if you differ with me, because we are a democracy."