Indoor Fireworks

A Teamster tries to smoke out lawbreakers at Schnucks

Morgan also made an ally in Pat Lindsey, director of the Tobacco Control Program at the St. Louis University School of Public Health. Spurred by complaints from Morgan -- and employees of various Schnucks stores -- Lindsey wrote a warning letter to Schnucks.

"If we had a stronger state law, Joe would have a better case," Lindsey says, "but the state law is so flimsy that Schnucks' attorneys are saying, 'We're doing everything the state law requires us to do.' They think they're in compliance."

Lindsey chuckles on hearing that Morgan now dons a mask before entering smoky work areas. "I don't think you can win this battle by being a fanatic," she says. "Our position on smoking cessation has always been pretty middle-of-the-road." Yet, she concedes, Morgan's antics are not unappreciated among the anti-smoking set. Dramatic as it is, maybe the breathing mask will have some effect on curbing renegade smoking. The problem is getting people to take his protest seriously. "Joe has consistently complained about the South Grand store," says Lindsey. "He says employees are smoking there in the dairy and they're not supposed to be, but the management doesn't want to hear from him. In fact, I think he's pissed off enough people that nobody wants to hear from him."

Joe Morgan
Jennifer Silverberg
Joe Morgan

Joe Morgan's parents were active in social and political causes. His father, Joe Morgan Sr., was a multiple-term mayor of Fenton and was once featured on the cover of the RFT because of his outspoken opposition to the EPA incinerator at Times Beach. "We were raised very socialist, very Democratic," says Morgan.

"I chained myself to the union-hall door one time," he says. "Nothing got settled, but the union president told my business rep, he said, 'Jesus Christ, he's got more balls than brains!'"

Another time, he picketed the Bo Beuckman Ford dealership in Ellisville when he believed he'd purchased a lemon. "All I had on the sign was 'Unhappy Customer,' and I had every truck on Manchester Road honking at me, making noise. Then a manager called my boss and told him what I was doing, and he started laughing -- my boss told me this later -- and he said he told them, 'Of all the people you can screw with, Joe Morgan is the last person you want. After the manager talked with my boss, he was out front returning my money and taking back the car."

Morgan says that both his union representative and his boss at Mid States Dairy back him up -- or, at least, are not telling him to cease and desist from using the breathing apparatus. He says, "My boss told me: 'Joe, 99 percent of the people would just let it go, but you're that 1 percent.'"

But Tim Mueller, a manager at Mid States, doesn't want to discuss Morgan's crusade, except to say, "Joe's on his own little mission."

"They won't comply to the law," adds Morgan, "and I can't get the state to help, can't get the police to help. Schnucks won't help." He pauses, thumbs the shoulder strap of his Carhartt bibs. "Look, I'm just a simple man, a nobody. I'm not out to change the world. I just want to change this so I can breathe clean air."

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