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The same Marion Barry who has laid off more than 1,000 District government workers, eliminated thousands of other jobs by attrition and played unrelenting hardball in negotiations with employes, all in the name of balancing the city's budget.
Only two weeks ago, Barry incensed leaders of the local public employe unions now negotiating new contracts with the city by offering all non-union city workers a 5 percent raise, plus a 2 percent Christmas bonus. That action was "ill-advised, and especially ill-timed," according to a tight-lipped William H. Simons, president of the Washington Teachers Union.
"We were outraged, particularly when we saw him next to Lane Kirkland," said Bernard Demczuk, an organizer for the American Federation of Government Employees. Demczuk and others protested Barry's presence on the stage, but to no avail.
Joslyn Williams, director of the Greater Washington Central Labor Council's political arm, said that Barry had been invited to take a prominent part in the day's activities because of the city's logistical help in staging the massive event.
And besides, Williams and other Washington labor leaders said, Barry is really just a small part of the problem.
First, Williams said, there is a virtual depression in the city's largest industry: government. The layoffs of District workers, which seemed traumatic last year, may look minuscule after the Reagan administration is done with its radical surgery on the defenseless corpus of the federal bureaucracy.
Unionized hotel and restaurant workers recently reached a new agreement with employers, and say they are pleased. But Williams said not enough of the workers in that expanding industry are unionized. Neither are most of the office workers who toil in the new buildings that seem to sprout overnight in Washington's downtown.
Moreover, many of those buildings are being built by non-union workers. The biggest current project in the city, the new D.C. Convention Center, is being constructed largely with non-union labor. Another union gripe with Barry and the city government.
In a recent interview, Central Labor Council president Robert E. Petersen said that the Washington area is home to a number of consultants who specialize in helping companies avoid becoming unionized, and cited this fact as one reason for the local labor movement's slump.
Petersen also cited high unemployment, which makes it easier for non-union employers to find workers, and legal restrictions that make it hard for unions to pull their members off the job in sympathy with another union's strike.
As a result, Petersen said, unions locally "don't have near the impact that we should have. I wish we did. All we're trying to do is raise the standard of living for the workers."
But it's not all doom and gloom. The Solidarity Day rally was seen as a much-needed shot in the arm for the local movement, and leaders expect its enthusiasm-boosting effect to linger. Demczuk speaks of organizing the labor movement as a potent force in the 1982 city elections, and envisions the hurling of lightning bolts at the polls that will "punish our enemies" among local officials.
Whether Barry, who did not have the support of most of the labor movement in 1978, is on the enemies' list remains to be seen. Despite their pique with the mayor, labor officials have not yet rushed to embrace any of Barry's potential opponents.
Simons said that he, for one, is optimistic that labor here can be an important force. But when he is pushed for specifics, the optimism seems to pale a bit. He acknowledges that there is little he can do for his teachers in terms of layoffs. He acknowledges that any wage increase the teachers receive this year will probably be a small one.
"There's more to a job than wages," he said. "There certainly can be made improvements in working conditions, and that's the area in which we will be looking in negotiations." But reducing the question to the area of working conditions concedes a lot of labor's traditional turf.
And a big question remains: How long will the afterglow of Solidarity Day last? Nationally, the labor movement took a big risk with the Solidarity march by aligning itself firmly against Reagan administration policies. Locally, there was little risk. But neither is there any guaranteed benefit.