Carter administration officials will block any attempt to introduce the union shop in government, even if it costs them AFL-CIO support on the president's civil service "reform" package. But they do not expect unions to press them to the wall on the matter this year.
By the same token, Carter aides have resisted Senate pressure to drop the drive for a House-passed bill to free federal and postal workers from the "no-politics" restrictions of the Hatch Act. But that resistance cannot be described as determined.
The White House now feels that Congress will produce pretty much what the White House wants on civil service reform, and few officials will don black armbands if Hatch Act reform is delayed another year.
Independent federal employe unions have banded to blast the civil service plan, which they say will strip employe protection against political management. In Senate testimony last week. Air Traffic Controllers union criticized the bill and White House methods of selling it to the public.
"While the administration's much publicized statistics on the small number of federal employes fired last year has now been fully discredited," Leyden said, "it is interesting to consider the logic behind the claim. If the number of employes fired is evidence of the need for reform, will the success of the administration's version of reform be measured by a larger number fired?"
Other independent unions have been so strongly opposed to civil service reform that they probably could not accept it now under any circumstances.
Despite White House talk that all views are welcome under the banner of reform, the administration wrote off the independents long ago.
The administration has been working hard to hold the support of Kenneth T. Blaylock of the American Federation of Government Employees. Many local AFGE leaders have warned that Blaylock is being "suckered" by the White House on reform. But some believe that he is getting more concessions favorable to labor than would have been possible if the large union had rejected reform outright.
"If Blaylock hadn't gone along on reform," a high administration official said, "we could have gone out into the country and sold it to the public over the dead bodies of government employes. It would have been an ugly name-calling, but I think we would have won and labor, and the government employe, would have lost."
At a recent private meeting with Blaylock, President Carter reportedly told him that he (Carter) had "gone about as far" as he was prepared to go on labor-management language in the reform bill. "We think we can get some more, but the union shop thing is dead," an AFGE official said.
On the Hatch Act changes, the White House has been asked by members of the Senate Governmental Affairs Committee to drop the bill for now. Common Cause, a supporter of civil service reform, has urged Carter to disavow the Hatch Act liberalizations which Common Cause president David Cohen believes could lead to politicization of the civil service.
Senate leaders have been told that Carter wants both civil service and Hatch Act reform but that civil service reform is more important. The Senate is expected to take the cue and do nothing more with the Hatch Act.