If there are really such things as political IOUs, then 14 House members picked up a lot of them yesterday from organized labor by voting "no" at the proper time.
What happened was that an unusual coalition of liberals and conservatives took an uncomfortable political bath (figuratively speaking) in public. The purpose was to spare 421 colleagues the election-year nightmare of being forced to choose between a "must" and civil rights issue and a "must" labor bill.
In a 14-to-8 vote the committee involved bottled up legislation that a predominantly black union, the National Alliance of Postal and Federal Employees, says is necessary to keep it alive and protect the rights of minority group workers in the postal Service who don't choose to be represented by the AFL-CIO.
The action means the House will not have a chance to vote on the so-called alliance bill, which would have given the 22,000-member union the right to represent workers and members in job-related grievances. Except in discrimination cases, postal workers who want union help must now go to AFL-CIO groups which have exclusive rights to represent them in adverse actions like demotions, job changes or firings.
In beating back the alliance bill, which has the support of the Congressional Black Caucus, AFL-CIO lobbyists managed to persuade many liberal Democrats, who would rather not be forced into such a position, or more powerful, or both.
The backstage maneuvering in the Post Office-Civil Service Committee was so fierce that liberals such as Rep. William L. Clay (D-Mo.) and Patricia Schroder (D-Colo.) found themselves voting with conservatives John H. Rousselot (R-Calif.) on the losing side.
The winning team, which supported the AFL-CIO position over the alliance, included such liberals as Morris K. Udall (D-Ariz.) and William Ford (D-Mich.) along with conservative Republicans Edward Derwinski (Ill.) and Gene Taylor (Mo.).
Locally, Reps. Glady N. Spellman (D-Md.) and Herbert Harris (D-va.), who normally have strong AFL-CIO ratings, sided with the alliance bill in voting with the minority. It was a day when you couldn't tell the players without a complicated scorecard.
Chairman Robert N.C. Nix (D-Pa.) and Clay, the only two black members of the committee, voted against the AFL-CIO and with the alliance.
Alliance leaders contend that the Postal Service and the AFL-CIO unions are trying to squeeze it, an independent, out of business and deprive members of representation rights. AFL-CIO leaders respond that the alliance was making the issue a "phony" contest between blacks and labor. AFL-CIO unions say they adequately represent blacks, and the American Postal Workers Union (AFL-CIO) says that six of its 22 elected national officers were black.
National Association of Letter Carriers President Joseph Vacca credited the victory to a massive grass-roots lobbying effort that his and other AFL-CIO unions made during the last week in January.
Alliance president Robert L. White said the AFL-CIO was "afraid" to let the bill get out of committee for fear that the full House would pass it. White also said he was "tired of so-called black leaders who are under the thumb of the AFL-CIO" who "turned their backs" on the alliance. He said he was going to publicly "blast" the "few but influential black politicians who are not acting in the best interests of black workers."
Federal Supply Service is encountering tough employe and union resistance to its plan to move several score of workers of the National Tool Center from Arlington to Kansas City, Mo. A final decision hasn't been made, FSS says, but insiders believe the "go" button will be pushed unless opponents of the move can convince Congress it would be costly and unnecessary.
Lou Aronin, deputy director of the Civil Service Commission's Office of Labor-Management Relations, will retire Friday. He's 55 and plans to hang out his shingle as an arbitrator. Aronin is considered one of the top professionals in the field, coming up from the tough labor training grounds of Baltimore and New Jersey.