Consumer advocate Ralph Nader yesterday called for a one-day nationwide consumer strike to protest what be called the failure of the Carter administration and the nation's business interests to bring down inflation.
Nader's speech came after United Auto Worker's President Douglas Fraser said he will shortly ask his 1.5 million members to take time out on the job one day to write Congress and President Carter to protest energy prices and shortages.
Both men spoke at an all-day session reminiscent of the anti-war teachins of the 1960s but with political rhetoric closer to the depression days of the 1930s.
Gari Alperovitz, an economist for the conference sponsor Consumers Opposed to Inflation in the Necessities (COIN), opened the teach-in with a summary of the particularly severe impact of inflation on the basic necessities.
"Inflation is clearly rising fatest in food, energy, housing and health care," Alperovitz said. He said that while overall inflation was nor pegged at about 13.8 percent annually, based on the first five months of 1979, food costs during the same period were up 17.14 percent, housing costs up 14.1 percent, medicine 9.2 percent and basic energy (gas, home heating oil, etc.) 37.1 percent. After taking those necessities out of the 13.8 figure, the economy was up only 7.6 percent, he added.
COIN proposed several short-term remedies for the problems, including reversal of President Carter's decision to decontrol-domestic crude oil prices, a congressionally mandated ceiling on hospital cost increases, reserve requirements for mortage loans to lower mortage costs, and others.
"There is a limit beyond which consumers will no longer be pushed," Nader told a conference luncheon. He then called on consumers to stop buying for one full day.
"Some time in the early fall, consumers should take one day off for a massive consumer strike," he said, adding that if gross receipts were cut in half for that day, the strike would be a success.
Consumer leaders at the conference seized upon the idea and announced intentions to follow up with planning sessions.
"We think it is a great idea," said Sandra Willets, president of the National Consumer's League, a 14,000 member organization. "We have already discussed it and are working on a proposal." She said she would suggest election day, Nov. 6 1979, as a possible target date.
Consumer Federation of America President Ellen Haas also endorsed the idea, saying it had "real potential to give the public a chance to make a unified expression of discontent."
White House consumer advisor Esther Peterson also praised the strike proposal."Anything that creates an awareness of the depth of the problem we face is helpful, and good," she said.
In an earlier address to some 2,000 attendees at the teach-in, United Auto Worker's president Douglas A. Fraser said he would ask all 1.5 million men and women in the UAW to "put down their tools and pick up pens" for the time necessary to write Congress and President Carter to protest energy prices and shortages as well as excessive oil company profits.
Fraser said the "write-in" would be a "brief, symbolic and disciplined," way to protest.
In other speeches, several consumer and labor leaders decried Carter Administration efforts to impose voluntary wage and price controls as inadequate. CAPTION: Picture, More than 2,000 participants at an inflation teach-in at the Washington Hilton here call for a nationwide consumer strike and massive union write-in protest. By Gerald Martineau - The Washington Post