Labor union opponents of a bill to revamp the District of Columbia workers' compensation law won a tactical victory yesterday when the City Council voted to consider the issue at a night meeting next month.
Three of every four biweekly council meetings are held in the daytime, when working people must take time off from work if they want to attend. If the council had not scheduled the issue yesterday, it would have come up for consideration at a daytime meeting March 18.
But council member Jerry A. Moore Jr. (R-At-Large), who spearheaded the move to put the issue off until April 22, said considering it at a meeting scheduled that night "might be more advantageous to the community" because more people could attend.
Some 200 labor union members who crowded the council chamber applauded Moore's move. Unions have turned out large delegations each time the measure has come up for consideration.
The council had been scheduled for the first time yesterday to consider details of legislation designed to revamp the program that pays District workers for disabling injuries suffered on the job.
The main bill being considered is sponsored by Willie J. Hardy (D-Ward m), who drafted it with aid from the Greater Washington Board of Trade. The board, Washington's main employer group, contends that excessive cash compensation under the present federally administered program have pushed insurance premiums paid by employers to prohibitive levels -- a point the unions challenge.
Union opponents of the bill had hoped to persuade a council majority yesterday to pigeonhole Hardy's bill in the hope of eventually killing it outright, or substituting a less stringent bill sponsored by Council member Wilhelmina J. Rolark (D-Ward 8). But on Monday, after Hardy had reported ill after returning from Africa, one of her aides asked that her bill be taken off the agenda and considered instead on March 18.
Nadine P. Winter (D-Ward 6) objected, saying such a delay was not automatic and needed council agreement. When the bill was called up for action later in the meeting, Moore made his motion for consideration of the bill at the meeting scheduled for 7:30 p.m. April 22. His proposal was approved by an unrecorded voice vote.
"I really don't think the bill is ready for consideration (now)," Moore declared.
Moore's son, Jerry A. Moore III, a registered lobbyist for the board of trade, is an active supporter of Hardy's bill.
After the April 22 consideration was scheduled, William R. Spaulding (D-Ward 5) questioned whether the meeting should be moved to another location with a larger seating capacity that would accommodate supporters and foes of the bill. Two large federal government auditoriums are located within a block of the District Building.
Council Chairman Arrington L. Dixon (D), a supporter of the Hardy bill, rejected such a move.