AFL-CIO accepts challenge to come up with alternative
Bal Harbour, Fla.
President Reagan's economic program, say the AFL-CIO, is a "high-risk gamble with the future of America." The giant labor federation indicates it will take up the President's challenge to come up with a better alternative.
The AFL-CIO, said a spokesman at its executive council meeting here, will take the initiative in bringing together "concerned groups" to oppose sharp budget reductions and to advance a program to meet the nation's needs "fairly and equitably and with true equality of sacrifice."
The federation already has contacted many of the 150 organizations in the coalition it set up a year ago to oppose federal cuts in critical social services and public jobs, and a meeting is planned at the end of this month.
The council agreed with a proposition advanced by the President that inflation must be reduced, the number of jobs increased, and the unemployed put back to work, productivity improved, industrial strength restored, and federal programs made more effective and efficient.
But "we cannot agree that the measures the President outlined will achieve those goals or that they meet the essential tests of fairness and equity," the executive council said in a statement.
The council said the Reagan proposals:
* Require more sacrifice from those who have little, to give to those who already have much.
* Substitute unrestrained market power for social responsibility and human concerns.
* Short change sound economic growth by cutting back programs to achieve energy independence, rebuild the nation's transportation system, revitalize urban areas, and safeguard the environment.
The AFL-CIO panel repeated its proposals made earlier in the week for putting off moves to balance the budget this year and to attack the budget deficit instead by reducing unemployment and cutting interest rates. The council estimates that a 1 percent reduction in unemployment would cut $30 billion from the budget.
Said AFL-CIO president Lane Kirkland: "The essence of the problem . . . is that the President's proposals are based on projections, prophecies, and euphoric promises tied to seriously dubious, esoteric doctrines which have not been probed. We don't happen to believe them. We consider the risks of failure very, very serious."
Mr. Kirkland did not want to make any predictions, but he said if help is cut deeply in low-income areas, there could be serious troubles reminiscent of those when "part of Washington was burning, sections of Los Angeles and Detroit were on fire, and the nation went through long, hot summers."
Lloyd McBride, president of the United Steel Workers, called the President's proposals "a soak-the-poor and give-to-the-rich program."
Jerry Wurf, head of the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees, called the proposed tax and spending cuts "devastating to the average working family."
Said Mr. Wurf, "Reagan's economic program represents the most basic challenge to the labor movement in decades."
Joyce Miller, the only woman on the council, sharply criticized cuts in social services and the expected losses of 340,000 CETA (Comprehensive Employment and Training (Act) jobs.
However, she said: "I'm not in favor of starting a fight with the Reagan administration. Where we agree, we ought to cooperate; where we disagree, we ought to tell them of our con cern."