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Presser Calls United Labor Movement 'Political Giant'

October 29, 1987|United Press International

MIAMI BEACH — Teamsters President Jackie Presser, declaring that his union is back in labor's fold for "eternity," told AFL-CIO delegates today that labor must close ranks to defend its members and political agenda.

Presser predicted that a unified labor movement would create the "greatest political giant this country has ever seen."

Delegates at the 17th biennial convention greeted Presser with a tumultuous standing ovation as he emerged, wearing an AFL-CIO baseball cap to cover a head balding from cancer treatments, from behind a podium and raised his thumbs in a sign of victory.

"Today, without question, is an historic event," he said.

The Teamsters were readmitted to the AFL-CIO after being expelled from the labor federation 30 years ago on allegations that the union was influenced by corrupt forces.

Presser, 60, did not allude to his impending trial on federal embezzlement charges nor a proposed civil suit by the government to place his union under the control of a court-appointed trustee to rid it of alleged mob influence.

During a rambling, 14-minute address to delegates, Presser discarded his prepared text and warned that American workers are under concerted attack and that union members must fight back.

"I think most of us in this room understand what has taken place in America over the last 10, 15 years. We've seen labor . . . attacked, condemned, accused, ridiculed.

"In the future, we've got to pull together, we've got to get together. Let's get somebody back on the floor of the Congress that is going to speak for organized labor," Presser said.

While promising unity on political and lobbying fronts, Presser did not address the raiding wars in which the Teamsters and AFL-CIO unions for years have waged expensive and often bitter campaigns to take away one another's members. The subject was one that most professional labor organizers wanted him to address.

But in bringing the Teamsters back into the federation, Presser vowed in a letter to AFL-CIO President Lane Kirkland last week to abide by provisions in its constitution for resolving organizing disputes.

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