AFL-CIO President Lane Kirkland created a five-man negotiating committee today in an attempt to bring the International Brotherhood of Teamsters back into the federation.
The announcement marked a sharp departure from the policies of Kirkland's predecessor, the late George Meany, who ordered the Teamsters' exile in 1957 because the truck drivers union refused to follow AFL-CIO directives to rid itself of alleged "corrupt domination."
Kirkland said today that the Teamsters are ethically fit to come home.
"The (Federation's) constitution says that a member union must be free of communist and corrupt domination," Kirkland told reporters here at the AFL-CIO 24th Annual midwinter meeting.
"Are the Teamsters in compliance with the Constitution?" a reporter asked.
"Yes," Kirkland said. He added: "I am satisfied that the Teamsters is a bona fide trade union that has been working in the best interest of its members."
Kirkland said the Federations's exectutive council voted unanimously Monday to set up the committee, that includes himself and AFL-CIO Secretary-Treasurer Thomas R. Donahue, to work out reaffiliation with the Teamsters.
The Teamsters approved the creation of its own, seven-member reatiliation panel last January at a quarterly executive board meeting in Los Angeles. Teamsters President Frank Fitztimmons and Secretary-Treasurer Ray Schoessling head their organization's committee.
Kirkland said he and Fitzsimmons have already had direct talks on the reaffiliation issue.
"Kirkland tossed out the first ball of this thing," said a Teamsters spokesman reached today at his union's headquarters. The spokesman was referring to Kirkland's public appeal last November for disaffiliated and never-affiliated unions to join the AFL-CIO.
No negotiating committees have been formed to work out reaffiliation with the United Auto Workers, or to bring the United Mine Workers and the politically powerful National Education Association into the federation fold, Kirkland said.
However, both the 1.5 million member UAW, which broke from the federation in 1968 in a dispute over social and labor policy, and the 240,000 member UMW, which was never affiliated with the AFL-CIO, have recently been participants in the federation's weekly legislative meetings.
Kirkland said no contacts have been initiated with the NEA, which has never been a member of the AFL-CIO and has long regarded itself as more of a professional organization than a labor union.
Any move towards affiliation with the NEA would need the backing of the AFL-CIO's unionized educators represented by the American Federation of Teachers, Kirkland said. He pointed out that the AFT and NEA compete for the same work force.
On another matter today, Kirkland strongly criticized the FBI for its recent undercover investigation of alleged offical corruption -- the so-called Abscam probe.
Kirkland said he believed that law enforcement officials may have broken the law themselves in their attempts to uncover wrongdoings.
"There is a serious question as to whether or not the law enforcement authorities created the crimes" they were investigating, he said.
"If law enforcement officials can create crimes at their own discretion, they can also create victimes by choice," Kirkland said.
Two of the figures allegedly involved in the Abscam investigation are Sen. Harrison A. Williams Jr. (D-N.J.) and Rep. Frank Thompson (D-N.J.) Both legislators are in charge of the labor committees of their respective houses.