JACKIE PRESSER, the new president of the Teamsters union, started off his term in office the other day with a call from President Reagan and a luncheon with labor Secretary Ray Donovan. Mr. Presser says that during his tenure his union will become "much more involved with the government." That's an aspiration about which one can have mixed feelings. Mr. Presser's union has already had a long history of involvement with the government -- most of it unhappy. The union's decades-old record of violent and unsavory dealings has brought hundreds of indictments and numerous criminal convictions to various of its national and local leaders, including three of its four most recent presidents.
No doubt Mr. Presser has other sorts of government dealings in mind. One is his avowed goal of turning back deregulation of the trucking industry. Deregulation has brought lower prices to the consumer but reduced membership to the Teamsters. Another is derailing the Labor-Management Racketeering Act now before Congress. Both of these efforts should be stoutly resisted by the administration, which reportedly has already given Mr. Presser some words of caution through Secretary Donovan.
It is disappointing that the Teamsters could not have backed up their avowed intentions of reform by finding a new president without a cloud of suspicion hanging about him (Mr. Presser's home local is currently the subject of a federal investigation of possible payroll padding). But Mr. Presser has shown himself to be a flexible negotiator in his dealing with the ailing trucking industry. He is also a man much concerned about his public image and a frequent contributor to civic and charitable causes. Perhaps he can broaden his concern to include the public image of the union he will now head and direct his philanthropic instincts to the welfare of his frequently misused membership.