In a fiery sermon on the evils of right-wing extremism, civil rights urged the AFL-CIO to renew its opposition to the Ku Klux Klan and other "enemies of human progress."
"Even though they may come after blacks in the morning, remember, they will be after labor in the afternoon," Hooks told the federation's 1oth biennial convention, meeting here.
"We should work to eliminate the Nazi party and the Ku Klux Klan, so that they will not raise their ugly heads and divert the cause of Jesus Christ and change the meaning of the Judeo-Christian heritage," Hooks, executive director of the NAACP, told the delegates.
"Those who put on night sheets and pillowcases and ride down streets with . . . shotguns are trying to destroy the spirit and progress of America."
Hooks was one of six people to address the convention yesterday. The others included Senate Majority Leader Robert C. Byrd (D-W. Va.), Minority Leader and GOP presidential candidate Howard H. Baker Jr. (R-Tenn.) and House Speaker Thomas P. (Tip) O'Neill Jr. (D-Mass.).
The congressional delegation spent much of its time praising retiring AFL-CIO President George Meany, extolling the virtues of American labor, calling for a stronger national energy program and supporting President Carter's efforts to free the American hostages in Iran.
Meany, who yesterday was voted the title AFL-CIO president emeritus, will retire with his current $110,000 salary.
Hooks, said much the same thing, and more. In a speech that drew the delegates' most enthusiastic response, he warned that what he perceives as the country's drift to the political right is endangering labor and civil rights gains.
"Unless those of us who are concerned about progress come together and exercise our muscle to stop the conservative trend in America, all of us will soon be in serious trouble," Hooks told his applauding audience.
"There is a round of conservatism which threatens to undo much of the progress that has been made," he said at the convention, which ends Tuesday.
Hooks credited the AFL-CIO in particular, and the American labor movement in general, with playing major roles in achieving civil rights goals.
Speaking of Meany, who officially will retire Monday after serving 24 years as the federation's only president, Hooks said: "Every piece of civil rights legislation in this century was enacted with the active support and leadership of George Meany and organized labor . . . He is a close and dear friend of civil rights and a passionate advocate for the underclass."