Starting tomorrow, when he formally succeeds 85-year-old George Meany as president of the AFL-CIO, the vioce of the American labor movement will be the slow, careful, lilting, patrician South Carlina drawl of Lane Kirkland, a man who has spent the last 19 years as Meany's faithful Sancho Panza.
There is electricity in Kirkland's voice when he is asked how someone growing up in Newberry, S.C., came to work for the old American Federation of Labor rather than, say Darlington Mills.
"Have you ever lived in a mill town?" asked Kirkland, with a cynical edge to his voice. "Do you want to work there? Particularly in the 1930s?"
"I was born in a little town called Camden," Kirkland recalled, "which was not a mill town; we lived off Yankee summer visitors. It was a resort town. We moved to a town called Newberry when I was a kid, which was essentially a mill town -- a unionized cotton mill town."
Here Kirkland grew more reflective: "What many people don't understand is that the South is a little more antiunion, a little more conservative in that regard, now, than it was then. Most of those cotton mills were organized. They were busted in the textile mills general strike in the mid-'30s, which was pretty violent and pretty much wipped out the textile workers in the South. Before then, it was a big flourishing organization."
"I went to school with a lot of kids whose families worked in the mills," Kirkalnd said. "Some of them worked themselves right after school, as sweepers. They'd leave school to work in the mills and conditions were rather bad. They had company mill villages then. If they'd fire a guy, he'd lose his house; he'd lose everything. ythere's no better way to get an education in becoming liberal than to be exposed to those sorts of things."
Americans have always felt uncomfortable acknowledging the unique importance of the labor movement. The head of the Chamber of Cxommerce is no more a Washington celebrity than an assistant secretary of agriculutre. But when George Meany announced his retirement on September 28th, it created almost as many shock waves as the passing of Charles de Gaulle in France.
No one better expressed the lasting significance of the American labor movement, the AFL-CIO and its new president than Daniel Patrick Moynihan, the flamboyant professor and government official now the junior senator from New York.
"I recently wrote Lane Kirkland a note," Moynihan begans, "And I told him that if the power were given to me to choose either the next president of the United States or the head of the American labor movement, I would choose the labor movement, in institutional terms, as the more important job."
Moynihan had just reached his rhetorical stride: "As an institution -- and business still doesn't appreciate it -- it has more stability than any other institution in america. It began in 1881 -- or 1886, when Samuel Gomprs took over, but I prefer 1881 -- and in the 98 years since the movement was founded, it has had only three heads -- Samuel Gompers, William Green and George Meany. In the same period, I once looked it up, there have been 19 presidents of the United States. The American labor movement is a rock. American social stability is built on the rock of the labor movement."
Since 1960 the 57-year-old Kirland has labored in Meany's shadow, first as his executive assistant and since 1969 as secretary-treasurer of the AFL-CIO -- the confederation of 104 unions with 13.7 million members which is the heart of the American trade union movement. Now Kirkland is finally taking charge, and journalists, politicians, government officials and union leaders are all struggling to take the measure of a man who has spent his adult life behind the scenes -- taking the telephone calls, writing the memos and negotiating the deals on behalf of Meany.
Compared to the crusty, blunt Meany, who with his ever-present cigar long ago became a convenient caricature of the American labor movement. Kirkland seems pallid and prosaic. But in his own unique way, Kirkland is a fascinating and enigmatic as the man he loyally served for two decades.
Kirkland is a Southern Protestant with a proud lineage that dates back to the American Revolution, yet the AFL-CIOis an institution dominated by Irish Catholics and urban Jews. He is a cerebral man with a wide-ranging intellect in an institution filled with self-made men whose closest contact with the world of ideas came during union meetings. He is a diffident, reserved, almost shy man taking over the reins of an organization made up of hearty backslappers. He is a soft-spoken man, free of bombast, who has operated in an environment where the standard linguistic coinage is the hyperbole of the union hall and the picket line.
It is difficult to get a handle on Lane Kirkland.As one of his closest friends, Ambassador Peter Rosenblatt, the president's for the Micronesian status negotiations, put it, "Lane is a very private man. You have to have to judge for yourself what's underneath the surface from the recurrent topics of his conversation. You have to guess at the connecting links that make up the whole personality."
A long-time friend said Kirkland "is strongly influenced by his Southern background," but he also emphasized how hard Kirkland worked to escape from it at a very early age.
Kirland's great -- great-grandfather, Thomas Jefferson Withers, represented South Carolina in the Confederate Senate. His father traveled all over the South as a cotton buyer, which Kirkland says "was a considerable skill." At the age of 17, during the early days of World War II, Kirkland made his first effort to flee South Carolina. He left home and traveled to Canada to try to enlist in the Canadian Army: "They spurned me."
Kirkland always had a low tolerance for Southern white racial attitudes. A colleague from Kirkland's early days in the labor movement tells this story:
"Lane took his first wife Edie down to South Carolina for a big family gathering. Now, Edie was related to the Maryland Balir family and was, of course, very white. A lot of Lane's family was talking about 'niggers.' Well, Lane got fed up and walked over to a few of them and said: 'You know, Edies colored. Please don't talk about it, she'll only get embarrassed.' They said, 'but she doesn't look colored; we wouldn't have ever guessed.' Lane stared at them and said, 'if you wouldn't have know, what's the difference?' and walked away."
Several close friends of Kirkland said, "You can't understand Lane without meeting Irena." It is not the kind of statement one often hears in Washington -- a city that does not expect anything more from the wives of the famous or powerful than an adoring helpmate or a pretty face on the campaign trail.
Irena, who married Kirkland in 1973, fits none of these stereotypes.The former Irena Neumann was a Czeh Jew who survived the concentration camps: "They always say that I was in Auschwitz, but now when I have read all the materials, I realize there were two camps, Auschwitz-Buchenwald, and we were in Buchenwald -- that's where they were doing the exterminating."
After the war, she became a Czech social democrat ("I hope most of your readers know that the social democrats were very establishment, not like the U.S. Labor Party"), who was imprisoned for two weeks by the Communists after they took power in 1949: "I was an executive of the social democratic youth movement. Because we were young and naive, we thought we could save Czech democracy." She got out of prison and escaped the country "on an absolutely last-chance boat to Israel."
Irena is a tall, stately, blond woman, in what seems to be her late 40s ("if I told you how old I was, my twin sister would never forgive me"), whose English is colored by an accent that substitutes v's for w's, which she describes as "my Oxonian English."
There is an unmistakable charm and warmth here, from her confession that she almost baked a cake for the interview ("that's my central European background coming out") to her description of a close woman friend: "That's my kibbutz. Everyone in Washington should have friends who will stay with you -- in power or out of power."
During the later stages of the Vietnam War, when Kirkland was one of the most unrepentent hawks in town, there were some antiwar friends who saw Irena as some sort of sinister influence, a kind of den mother to the militant anti-Communists in the labor movement. Even those who once adhered to such views now dismiss them as overly simplistic. But Irena is clearly a woman with strong and passionate feelings about international affairs: "If you're fighting for free trade unions, you're fighting for democracy." She is also modest about her own role in shaping her husband's views: "Certainly two people influence each other. But Lane would not be what he is today if he were not a strong human being."
She and Kirkalnd met each other in Paris in 1956 when they were both married to other people -- she to a Hollywood film producer and he to the former Edith Hollyday, who bore him five daughters. But shortly thereafter Irena and Lane Kirkland fell out of touch for more than a decade.
It was not until 1969 that hey became close, after running into each other, quite by chance, sitting at adjoining tables at the famous New York French restaurant, the Pavillon: "I was having lunch with a girlfriend and there was this whole enormous table of men. At the end of the lunch, you know how everyone in New York knows each other, some of the men stopped at our table to say hello to my girlfiend and there's this man who just stares at me and stares at me and finally says, 'Irena,' and I say, 'Lane.' The most amazing thing was that we recognized each other."
At this point things get awkward because both of them were still married, although Kirkland was separated in 1969 and his daugters were fully grown. It is worth noting that Kirkland placed their meeting not in 1969, but in 1971, the year before his divorce, and neglected to mention the name of the New York restaurant.
However, in 1969, in one of his first speeches after becoming secretary-treasurer, Kirkland referred to Irena obliquely in a speech, as "an Israeli friend, a Czech refugee who had, in an obscure youth, endured the experience of both the Nazi and the Soviet occupations."
A friend of theirs from outside the labor movement says, "The essential thing to capture is the contrast in their household between Irena, who constantly fills their home with Israelis and Russian emigres, and Lane, who plays host with a courtly, Southern charm." Each year the Kirklands celebrate Passover at a seder at Peter Rosenblatt's home. They also are regulars at New York Times' columnist William Safire's break-the-fast party on the evening after Yom Kippur, which is restricted to Jews and those married to them. Irena Kirkland describes it as "the only party in Washington that we go to thanks to me."
Kirkland's years of service as Meany's alter ego have led many to speculate that he lacked a certain drive, a certain ambition to get to the top. That's not the way his wife sees it: "Try to play cards or Scrabble with him and he's losing, his mouth keeps getting smaller and smaller; hell sit there for three days until he wins."
In 1964, Kirkland developed a usually fatal form of cancer called melanoma and went through a series of operations. A friend recalls, "He came very close to death in his own mind. I sat up and talked with him for hours during that period, and I remember him saying -- let me think of the exact words -- 'No man who has been as close to death as I have can ever be overwhelmed by longterm ambitions.'"
The same friend continues: "Lane's illness, his coming to terms with his own life, his divorce and remarriage, were part of the same thing -- a redefinition of his own life. He has lived a very full life since he remarried, full in terms of emotion as well as work."
Although Kirkland has had a few flare-ups of related skin cancer, and his cheeks bear a few small scars, he is cured -- at least as much as anyone who has ever had cancer can be considered cured. Nonetheless, he smokes Carlton cigarettes, in a low-tar cigarette holder, with the same avidity that Meany smoked cigars.
Kirkland permanently escaped from South Carolina in 1940 by enlisting in the American merchant marine, his only stint as a rank-and-file union member, and spent six years at sea, sailing freighters everywhere from Japan, eight months before Pearl Harbor, to Bizerte, at the time of the invasion of Sicily ("it was a little hairy there").
Those six years of sailing the sea lanes of a world at war helped shape Kirkland's character. "Lane was strongly influenced by his life as a sailor," Jack Conway recalls. Conway, who was a long-time assistant to former United Auto Workers president Walter Reuther, and who owned a sailboat with Kirkland in the 1960s, said: "Lane learned how to live surrounded by people without intruding on their privacy.If you're on a ship and there are 20 men in a crew, you have to spend time with all of them, but only with one or two do you find a community of interests. You have to protect yourself against exposure beyond the limits you're prepared to permit. This is more an explanation of Lane's sense of privacy than other things."
After the war, Kirkland did not return to South Carolina. He moved to Washington and got a job drafting maritime charts at the Navy's Hydrographic Office in Suitland and enrolled in Georgetown University at night.
Kirkland's career as a labor bureaucrat began in 1948 when he joined the staff of the American Federation of Labor, which was, in those days before the 1955 merger with the Council of Industrial Organizations (CIO), the conservative, craft wing of the American labor movement.
As Kirkland tells it, (AFL) president Bill Green came to talk to one of the classes in which Kirkland was enrolled. After Green's lecture on the evils of the Taft-Hartley Act, they fell into conversation. "He offered me a job," Kirkland recalls, "and, hell, I was getting bored at the Hydrographic Office . . . I thought I would try it for a little while."
Shortly after he arrived at the AFL, Kirkland was loaned as a speechwriter to the campaign of Alben Barkley, Harry Truman's running mate. "It was fascinating, but frustrating," Kirkland reminisced, "because Barkley was blind. He wore glass . . . but he couldn't read very well. He'd start out with a speech to a big audience . . . and after about three minutes he would just throw the speech away and start his old stump speech.
"Which was a marvelous speech, stirring, arousing, a real old-fashioned rouser. There was only one problem -- it was an hour and a half long and he only had two versions of it, a city version and a country version."
After the campaign Kirkland was put to work in the AFL's small research department where he toiled for many months on a pamphlet that explained to member unions how they could set up pension plans for their members. Normally such a task would not be the stuff of greatness. But these days the brilliance of that pamphlet is an article of faith at AFL-CIO headquarters. Meany devoted almost his entire speech to a reminiscence about the pamphlet on the occasion of Kirkland's election as AFL-CIO secretary-treasurer in 1969. t
Even in those days, Kirkland's work habits were somewhat idiosyncratic. Nelson Cruikshank, who was one of Kirkland's first bosses at the AFL and who now advises President Carter on the problems of the elderly, recalls that Kirkland arrived late at work and often spent the first hour or so of the day with his feet propped up on his desk, munching cookies and reading the morning papers.But Cruikshank adds, "You just knew that Lane would do something brilliant before the day was over."
(Kirkland is still not a morning person, rarely arriving at his office before 10. Al Zack, the long-term public relations director for the AFL-CIO, tells the story of calling Irena about a breakfast meeting of the Rockfeller Commission on the CIA on which Kirkland served. "I'm not sure I can get Lane out of bed that early," she said. "I guess you don't realize that at 8 in the morning my husband is a security risk.")
Through the mid-1950s Kirkland settled into his niche at the AFL-CIO.He was making a good living -- about $12,000 a year -- and while he had little power, he was constantly being drafted to write speeches for high-ranking labor officials. It's hard to figure out the scope of Kirkland's ambitions in those days. He says, "I don't think I gave it much thought. I found a home, I liked the work, I liked people, I was enjoying it."
Cruikshank tells a story about how an official of a large insurance company told him one day, "You people in labor must get great salaries." It was a rather startling remark and Cruikshank asked him to explain why. "Your man Kirkland is a real good man on insurance," he said. "We were prepared to offer him $75,000 to come to work for us." Cruikshank raised this with Kirkland and he said, "Yeah, I talked with him, but I never wanted to work for a goddam insurance company." Cruikshank asked him if they ever discussed salary. "No," said Kirkland, "We never got that far."
In 1958 Kirkland reluctantly left the AFL-CIO to go to one of their member unions, the Operating Engineers, as research director with a $5,000 raise. The reason for Kirkland's departure was that William Schnitzler, then the AFL-CIO's secretary-treasurer and a man most charitably described "as a nice guy, but a basket case," wanted to draft Kirkland as a full-time speechwriter. Two years later, Meany called him back as his executive assistant. It was a somewhat unexpected choice. One AFL-CIO staff member who dates back to that period recalls, "His selection didn't come as a shock, but there was no reason to think that when Meany chose a new executive assistant it would have been Lane Kirkland."
Probably the most carefully guarded aspect of Lane Kirkland's life has been his relationship with Meany. Even Tom Donahue, currently Meany's executive assistant and, at this writing, the likely choice to succeed Kirkland as secretary-treasurer, could not think of an occasion on which Meany and Kirkland have ever differed.
Jerry Wurf, the president of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employes, endorses this view: "Lane has never differed with Meany on a matter of substance.The Meany-Kirkland relaltionship is such that any differences would be resolved in private."
The love, affection and respect that Kirkland feels for Meany is obvious. Like so many others within the AFL-CIO, he calls Meany "father" and "papa" without a twinge of embarrassment.
Yet Kirkland's public comments about Meany are curiously spare. When Kirkland announced Meany's retirement, there were tears in his eyes, but all he said was, "There is so much that I feel and want to say at a time like this that I really can't say anything," before going to to make a few pedestrian comments about the AFL-CIO's "deep love and respect for this great man."
Typically flat is Kirkland's account of how Meany offered him the job as his executive assistant in 1960: "He called me up one day and told me to come over and see him and asked me if I wanted to go to work for him as executive assistant, and I said yes. It was as simple as that."
Unlike many labor leaders, Kirkland's interests extend far beyond the narrow confines of the trade union movement. He reads widely and much has been made of his current hobby of amateur archeology. r
The private side of Kirkland's personality is little glimpsed within AFL-CIO headquarters. One of the longtime stalwarts of the AFL-CIO staff says, "I don't know anybody in this building who is an intimate of Lane Kirkland." He goes on to describe Kirkland as anything but the "typical labor leader who developed in the rough and tumble of union politics. You don't see him bellying up to bars at conventions."
Yet Kirkland does make an effort to adapt to the social milieu in which he works. AFL-CIO spokesman Al Zack and several union presidents make much out of Kirkland's willingness to play gin rummy with the boys. Meany is outmatched by Kirkland as cards and has said publicly, "There is one thing I regret -- I never should have taught him to play gin rummy."
Kirkland eschews the personal austerity of some in the trade union movement. A friend says, "There is just a touch of ironic reference to the incongruity of his enjoying the good things in life. It pleases him to fondle a bottle of damn good wine and enjoy the occassional purchase of a good piece of sculpture." But he adds, "It has taken Irena years to get him to cut his hair so that he doesn't look like he just came out of a G.I. barber shop."
The Kirklands live in a solid, upper-middle class, brick home on 26th Street in Northwest Washington in the neighborhood known as Chevy Chase, D.C. Their spacious living room is furnished in Scandinavian modern with various Middle Eastern artifacts and modern art prints scattered throughout the room. Although Kirkland's salary is $90,000, and will rise to $110,000 when he succeeds Meany, Irena claims they could not afford their home if they had to buy it now, rather than in 1973.
Kirkland has a well-deserved, if hardline, reputation for expertise in foreign affairs. He has been a regular delegate to international labor conferences in Europe since the 1950s and has long been the favorite token labor representative on various blue-ribbon boards and task forces, including the Trilateral Commission. Pat Moynihan says, "Lane has twice the diplomatic experience of the entire seventh floor of the State Department combined."
Even Wurf, a major opponent of the Meany-Kirkland line on the Vietnam War and the decision not to endorse George McGovern in 1972, admits, "Even when he's wrong, he's wrong for decent reasons. Lane Kirkland really believed that the fall of South Vietnam was a setback for democracy and the Western world."
One of Kirkland's formative experiences was his exposure to card-carrying American Communists in the merchant marine at the time of the 1939-1940 alliance between Germany and the Soviet Union. "I'm of the generation that grew up during the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact, Pearl Harbor, Munich and World War II. I think that had a very profound effect," he said.
Since Meany entered the hospital for the treatment of a knee ailment in mid-April this year, Kirkland has been running the show on 16th Street. During that period the AFL-CIO made two important decisions, both of which represent Kirkland's handiwork and mark a striking degree of accommodation with the Carter administration, especially because relations between Meany and the White House were, at best, frigid until his hospitalization.
It has been a difficult time for the normally unflappable Kirkland. As a friend said, "I've seen him under great stress, but his outside demeanor doesn't change. The last six months have not been an easy time for Lane. He was very attached to George Meany. Lane hasn't known what was going to happen to his own situation. It's still a tough time; he's still pretty tense."
Tom Donahue, Meany's executive assistant, agreed. "Lane was always the faithful number two," he said. Kirkland chaired a meeting of the executive council -- the AFL-CIO's 33-member governing board -- in Washington last May. "Lane did this very well," Donahue said, "but it was pretty pro forma. Lane was clearly sitting in for George."
But, Donahue said, by the time of the August executive council meeting in Chicago, which endorsed the SALT II Treaty, "Lane was clearly running the council. After the council meeting, Lane did three press interviews. If there was a point when Lane took charge, it was the August council meeting."
Irena Kirkland has her own interpretation: "When Meany decided he was not going to run for another term, it put roses back into Lane's cheeks."
(Kirkland's long years of courting the diverse wings of the executive council paid off during this interregnum period. J. C. Turner, president of the Operating Engineers, made some noises about challenging Kirkland, but dropped out of the race after Meany made it clear during an Oct. 15 meeting with Turner, that he would support Kirkland.)
Kirkland refuses to ackowledge the difficulties that he has felt during this transition period. "i wouldn't exaggerate the difficulties," he said, choosing every word very carefully. "There has been a lot of work to do -- if you're busy, you work. I'm not afflicted with all that much introspection. I'm concerned about carrying the work forward. It has not been so difficult."
Last February at the annual AFL-CIO retreat at Bal Harbour, Fla., Kirkland denounced the SALT II Treaty, which had yet to be formally signed, as a "colossal failure of arms control."
Yet, just six months later, Kirkland was shaping a resolution that gave qualified, but politically significant, endorsement to the treaty. True, the endorsement was conditioned on the development of the MX missile.
At the executive council meeting, Kirkland spoke on SALT for 40 minutes in an impressive display of low-key rhetoric that made the technical issues comprehensible to a body that few would mistake for a college faculty meeting. Jack Lyons, a senior member of the executive council, said, "When I heard that Lane was going to recommend that we endorse SALT, I told my wife that he's going to have one goddam tough time selling me on SALT. But when Lane got done laying out the background on the issues, he convinced me that it was the way to go, especially on the MX missile."
Nonetheless, the depth of Kirkland's personal commitment to SALT remains in doubt. A friend says flatly, "I personally feel that what he said about SALT does not reflect his own views."
A variation of this interpretation comes from a key AFL-CIOstaff member, who argues if Kirkland had come out against SALT, it would have split the labor movement.
(Late last month Kirkland made two overtures toward the conservative wing of the labor movement. He gave a clear signal that he favors the return of the Teamsters to the AFL-CIO and testified as a character witness at the racketeering trial of New York longshoremen's union leader Anthony Scotto, whose reputation for honesty Kirkland said was "excellent.")
These days Kirkland is the Carter administration's favorite labor leader.Landon Butler, the assistant who handles labor in the White House, says, "Lane's going to make the AFL-CIO intellectually relevant." Secretary of Labor Ray Marshall adds, "I've been impressed by his articulateness, even when he's talking to people who are not inclined to agree with him."
It wasn't always like that. Until the beginning of this year the private line within the administration was that if Kirkland succeeded Meany, he would prove to be an even more hard-nosed adversary on economic policy than his predecessor.
That was before the National Accord between AFL-CIO and the administration was unveiled Sept. 28. The nine-page agreement, largely written by Kirkland and Treasury Secretary William Miller, has potentially large long-term ramifications, but its announcement was overshadowed by Meany's retirement the same day.
The National Accord has Kirkland's stamp all over it. It represents a new facet in Kirkland's public persona -- the gambler, the high-roller, the innovator and the master negotiator.
The agreement involved give-and-take on both sides. The administration got labor to agree that "the war against inflation must be a high priority" and to sit on a 15-member Pay Advisory Committee that will chart the next phase of the administration's wage-restraint policy.
In return, the administration made the AFL-CIO a partner in developing economic policy, yielded on a series of parochial labor issues and spelled out, in considerable detail, how it will tilt away from business in developing nostrums in fight a recession.
A peek at some of the behind-the-scenes negotiations between the administration and the labor movement that gave rise to the National Accord contains some clues as to how Kirkland will function as president of the AFL-CIO.
As early as 1977, Kirkland and labor Secretary Marshall had discussed the possibility of a "social compact" between labor and the administration on something resembling the European model, but the idea was dropped until the spring of 1979, during Meany's illness.
The first major break-through took place in July at Jean-Pierre, a pricey French restaurant on K Street, where over lunch with Landon Butler, Kirkland laid out the AFL-CIO's negotiating position. Kirkland demanded concessions on seven specific issues, ranging from a 7-percent federal pay raise to zealous enforcement of existing protective trade legislation, while Butler, another one of that hardy band of Georgians in the White House, took notes on a laundry receipt, the only piece of paper in his pocket.
A few days later on July 11, there was a more formal gathering in the Roosevelt Room of the White House with Vice President Walter Mondale presiding. Without consulting a note, Kirkland talked for 90 minutes, laying out his negotiating position and his philosophy of "shared austerity."
One administration participant said, "Lane Kirkland was absolutely eloquent. One of the great statements on economic policy I've ever heard. Very slowly, very deliberately, Kirkland worked through his points very carefully. He put each one of those parochial labor issues into a whole framework on the state of the economy. It's the first time I've ever heard anybody with a clear framework for discussing the economy."
When Kirkland finally finished, he said. "Have I missed any issues?" Mondale turned to Butler and said, "Landon?" At that point, Butler reached into his pocket and took out the crumpled laundry ticket on which he had taken the notes from the lunch. Mondale turned to Butler with mock anger and said, "London, you're an assistant to the president, the least you should be able to do is to put those notes on a piece of paper."
Negotiations continued through the summer, shrouded in uncharacteristic secrecy. Kirkland's growing self-confidence at the AFL-CIO was reflected in his decision not to inform key members of the executive council that these talks were going on until mid-August.
In mid-September the talks almost broke down. The agent provocateur was Charles Schultze, the chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers, who had spent much of the summer in the hospital. At a Sept. 14 meeting in the Roosevelt Room, Schultze laid out his key demand that the pay board operate under a tight statement of principles drafted by the administration. (In the parlance of the negotiations, this was called a "fettered board.") Kirkland and Marshall both considered this demand to be an anathema.
For two days, Schultze continued to press for a "fettered board" and the issue became the only item in the talks that was personally decided by the president. On Sept. 15, an options memo went in to the president; he checked the "unfettered" box and the success of the negotiations was assured.
It is unlikely Meany could have negotiated the National Accord. One could just picture him storming out of the Roosevelt Room when Schultze persisted in his demand for a "fettered" pay board.
The view from the upper reaches of AFL-CIO headquarters is that, "Lane was the guy with the idea, the concept and the willingness to go along with it."
This is not to imply that Kirkland failed to consult Meany at any stage in the negotiations. As Wurf put it, "Let me tell you one thing. If George Meany didn't want that accord to happen, he could have stopped it from his wheelchair."
But the National Accord remains the first fruit of Kirkland's stewardship of the American labor movement. To lift a cliche from American foreign policy rhetoric, the National Accord symbolizes that the AFL-CIO under Kirkland has moved from an era of confrontation with the government into an era of conciliation.
During a recent interview in his eighth-floor office, Kirkland was being maneuvered around the room by a photographer who wanted to line him up with the White House and the Washington Monument through the windows. After the fifth interruption, Kirkland murmured, "I'm used to taking orders." A long pause. "Especially from photographers."
Irena is pleased about Kirkland's anonymity: "I like the idea that Lane is unrecognized when we go somewhere. The other day we were at Union Station and he was buying newspapers with his picture on the frontt page, but nobody noticed."