Eleven officials of the American Federation of Government Employees union, which recently got a $1.5 million bailout loan from the AFL-CIO because of money and membership losses, are on a 10-day tour of the Soviet Union as guests of that nation's State Institution of Workers Union.
The Washington Times, which reported the trip Tuesday, quoted AFGE's No. 3 officer, Allen Kaplan, as saying the trip won't cost the hard-pressed U.S. civil service union any money. Kaplan said he and other members of the fact-finding delegation will each pay about $500 out of their own pockets to cover expenses not picked up by the Soviet labor organization that represents government employees in the Soviet Union.
AFGE sources said they understood the delegation got a group rate for the trip. Round-trip tourist air fare from Washington to Moscow, purchased 21 days in advance, costs about $900 per person, according to airline sources. The AFGE team will be in Moscow, Leningrad and Kiev, returning here Jan. 17.
Despite the high-level thaw in U.S.-Soviet relations, some AFGE officials think the timing of the trip is bad, predicting it will upset some members for political and financial reasons. It could become an issue at the union's August convention in Miami Beach.
Many of AFGE's members work in military installations in the South and West, or in the Washington-Baltimore region.
Union President Kenneth Blaylock and Vice President John Sturdivant did not make the trip. They may face each other for the top job.
Kaplan, who is from Chicago, defeated former secretary- treasurer Nicholas Nolan of Baltimore two years ago in a bitter campaign. It centered on the union's financial problems and charges that Nolan accepted an overseas trip paid for by an insurance firm that handled AFGE business.
Accompanying Kaplan on the Soviet trip are AFGE's Washington regional vice president Donald McIntyre; Betsy Reid, the union's political education director, and top organizer Bernard Demczuk, as well as local union leaders from other parts of the country. They expect to meet with their counterparts in various government installations.
AFGE has been losing members and dues money for more than a decade. Although it is the bargaining agent for 700,000 white-collar and blue-collar federal workers, it currently has 207,000 dues-paying members, about 150,000 fewer than its peak of 15 years ago.
On Jan. 6 The Washington Post reported that AFGE had received a $1.5 million "financial rescue package" in the form of loans from several AFL-CIO affiliates, including $300,000 each from the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, the National Association of Letter Carriers, American Postal Workers Union and the AFL-CIO national office. AFGE is locked in an expensive membership fight with the independent National Treasury Employees Union. NTEU wants to woo AFGE members in the Social Security Administration. NTEU is one of the few nonpostal federal unions that has enjoyed membership growth in recent years, much of it through successful raids of disaffected AFGE locals.Tax Seminar
The Association of Government Accountants is sponsoring a tax seminar and luncheon tomorrow at the Touchdown Club. For information call Larry Achter at 382-5161.