Looking back at his more than two years in the Reagan administration, Stephen Schlossberg, a liberal Democrat and ardent trade unionist, likes what he sees.

As deputy undersecretary of labor for labor-management relations, Schlossberg believes he made a difference in helping to reestablish ties between working people and their government.

"People need to know there is a Labor Department and there will be one tomorrow and that fashions and politics may change, but this country has a basic commitment to making life better for working people," Schlossberg said in a recent interview. "I thought I could help with {that} and, believe me, I have."

Schlossberg resigned his Labor Department post last week to become director of the International Labor Organization.

Like many political appointees in the Reagan administration, Schlossberg is a true believer. But his is not the gospel of free markets and economic deregulation. A one-time union organizer and longtime general counsel of the United Auto Workers union, the 65-year-old Schlossberg preaches from the book of collective bargaining. He sees it as the salvation of an industrial nation under siege from foreign competition and economic change.

Schlossberg said he was attracted to government because it gave him the chance to use the government pulpit to further the cause of collective bargaining and to help bring about change in the nation's labor relations system.

"I came with the mission of trying to show that we can be competitive in this world by enhancing human dignity through human growth and development, and that could be done best through the industrial relations system," he said. "I really think that free trade unions and free collective bargaining are so important to American society that I saw myself as one of the last people who was able to make a contribution in this area.

"I really wanted to open the Labor Department to the labor movement, because if the labor movement and the Labor Department could see each other and talk, that could create some answers. There can be creative conflict resolution even if they differ on everything."

Another reason Schlossberg joined the Reagan administration was Labor Secretary Bill Brock. Brock succeeded Raymond Donovan in the cabinet post in 1985 and almost immediately recruited Schlossberg. The appointment was seen as a peace offering to organized labor.

"I really admired Bill Brock: First of all, because of the contrast between him and the other members of the administration. It's so obviously dramatic," Schlossberg said.

But almost more important, Schlossberg said, was the fact that Brock was in tune with his views on collective bargaining and the need to change and improve the labor relations environment if the nation was to be competitive.

"He seemed to understand that there was a picnic to which everybody could come and everybody could bring a basket," Schlossberg said. "The government could bring a basket, the employer could bring a basket, the union could bring a basket and individuals could bring their baskets.

"He seemed to understand when I talk about the 'stakeholder principle' -- that an enterprise is not just the people who invest in it or manage it but that there are other stakeholders:. The people who work in it, the suppliers, the customers ... and, of course, the stockholders. But the stockholders, it seems to me, have the least stake of anybody since they are owners for 24 hours in our modern society."

The message, Schlossberg said, is that workers and managers have a common destiny that should be the basis for developing new labor-management cooperation. And that, he said, was the message he constantly delivered while at the Labor Department.

Another role he saw for himself was to help keep Brock out of trouble -- to keep the "overzealous people" at bay and help cool the rhetoric on legislative issues involving labor. "I had a couple of fights over that," he said.

Schlossberg said he is also proud of the fact that he managed to begin a dialogue in the industrial relations community over the need to review federal labor law. "I wanted to start a dialogue so that people would know that as attitudes change, legal structures are not immutable and unchangeable," he said. Schlossberg's efforts in this area have not met with universal acclaim. After Schlossberg sent out some proposals for legal change, Brock received a telegram from a noted conservative labor relations expert. "I thought Mondale lost the election," it said.