SOME 50 OF US, legislative representatives for the AFL-CIO or one of its affiliates, come together in a third-floor conference room in the House of Labor. It's "the Monday morning 10 o'clock," and Ken Young, AFL-CIO legislative director, guides us through the bills scheduled for action in Congress. Three in particular concern me.
Tomorrow the House is scheduled to vote on a proposed anti-busing amendment to the Constitution (they can't vote today because of the congressional golf tournament.)
Second, I learn that the House-Senate conference on the Labor-HEW appropriations bill may start in a few days. The bill has a terrible amendment, added by the Senate, that would severely limit inspections of small businesses by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). About 5.5 million people will be unprotected against job hazards if the amendment isn't dropped or modified.
Last, I discover to my consternation that the Senate is taking up a food stamp bill at 1:30 p.m. Last week I had agreed to see five senators, never dreaming the bill would be up so soon. I am to try to persuade them to vote for a bipartisan substitute that takes account of the impact of inflation and unemployment on the food stamp program and allocates more money for it. Without such changes, millions of food stamp recipients' benefits will be cut below the present average of 30 cents a meal.
After lunch at my desk, I head for the Hill. The desk at the Senate's ornate Reception Room is staffed today by Ruby and Irish, amiable guardians of the Senate floor. The food stamp bill is next, they say, but not many senators are about. Ruby takes my card in anyway but soon returns, unable to find any of my five assignments. I take an electric car to the Dirksen Building to see whom I can catch in their offices.
Three of the senators are not in; the fourth is in plain view - talking to constituents. I'm forced to give my message to aides, telling them of our support for the substitute and our standing opposition to any move to deny stamps to striking workers. On the car back to the Capitol I encounter Lowell Weicker of Connecticut, not one of my assignments but a senator who should be checked. I urge the substitute on him and get a stiff, noncommittal answer (in the end, he votes for the bill.)
Upstairs I catch John Glenn, who is one of my assignments, as he dashes from the cloak-room. He will be with us, but he thinks the Senate has just laid the food stamp bill aside. Arnold Mayer of the United Food and Commercial Workers, who leads all our food stamp fights, confirms Glenn's news. Stamps are off for at least two hours.
That's fortunate.I'm due at the Senate Labor Committee at 4 p.m. Darryl Anderson, a young staff attorney, has arranged a conference call on another bill I'm interested in in my role with the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights. The measure would protect handicapped workers against job bias by adding them specifically to the groups cited in Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. It may be marked up later this week.
The aim of the conference call is to explain to us some compromises the administration and some committee members are proposing. The 11 conferees include representatives of handicapped groups and two Leadership Conference officers. The call is an awkward affair - there are too many of us, and three of us are left without phones. Even so, it has one clear outcome: We all oppose the compromise. We will try to see one key senator and someone in the White House.
The Senate goes back on food stamps shortly after I return, and the day ends in victory. An attempt to make striking workers ineligible for stamps is defeated, and the extra money is approved. I get the good news standing by the bank of elevators outside the Senate floor. Sen. Joe Biden of Delaware grins when he sees me. "All these victories," he says, "must go to your head."
While the debate on the anti-busing amendment is going on, I and my fellow lobbyists are off the House floor, jammed into the narrow spaces marked for us on either side of the hall by brass stanchions and red velvet ropes. We compare notes, catch every unchecked or doubtful member who chances by and kibbitz. An abler lobbyist than I, the late Jack Beidler of the UAW, used to say, "Nobody ever picked up a vote in the gallery."
A bulletin from the front: Debate, scheduled for one hour, has been extended for one more. Four of us go to the coffee shop in a basement tunnel of the House - our "Plastic Palace" - for a quick lunch of sandwiches, styrofoam bowls of bean soup and coffee. The debate's still on when we return. Now we just stand about waiting, sweltering in our cramped spot. Being a lobbyist sometimes has all the zing and glamor of guard duty in the Lincoln Tunnel.
At about 2:30 two bells ring. The doors to the House floor fling open. Several of us dash to the Republican side to greet members as they step off the elevators and urge "No" votes as they dash by. The sharp-eyed among us read the vote as it ticks off on the electronic scoreboard on the low wall around the spectators' gallery. The amendment doesn't come close to getting the two-thirds majority needed to pass. To a brief burst of handclapping in the House chamber, it is defeated, 216 to 209.
The jubilation is repeated in the offices of Don Edwards of California, who led the floor flight. Members and lobbyists make toasts with plastic goblets of champagne. There, too, I learn that markup of another bill I'm interested in - to strengthen enforcement of the 1968 fair housing law by giving HUD authority to issue cease-and-desist orders - is scheduled for 9 the next morning.
At 8:30 I am at breakfast in the Longworth Building cafeteria. I read the paper and catch up on the issues I am not lobbying. SALT II. Energy. Windfall profits tax. Then I go to the Rayburn hearing room where Don Edwards presides over his House Judiciary subcommittee. At first, markup on the housing bill seems to go well. Then unexpected resistance develops on two points. Edwards calls a halt. Staff members will try to develop language. We lobbyists linger on, hashing over the problem with staff members.
I take a cab to the little basement suite - six rooms, two secretaries - that the Leadership Conference maintains in a building on Massachusetts Avenue owned by a Conference member, the Union of American Hebrew Congregations. There I go through mail and confer with Arnold Aronson, a founder of the Conference 30 years ago, its secretary and the true heart of the organization. We rough out a memo we will issue to Conference members, reporting the anti-busing defeat and urging them to bend their energies to the fair housing bill. But then a new crisis arises.
We learn that Frank White of the White House staff has invited a few representatives of handicapped groups to discuss an administration problem with the bill. It strikes us, however unintentional, as a move that undercuts our coalition. Arnold is able to get three Leadership Conference representatives invited to the session - Howard Paster, UAW, Joe Rauh, ADA, and Sally Laird, League of Women Voters. We hope to impress on the administration that the bill is a civil rights issue for others besides the handicapped.
An unexpected gift of time: The conference in which the OSHA amendment figures is off till Monday. The markup on the fair housing bill will not resume until next Wednesday. I spend the morning catching up on mail and writing the Leadership Conference memo. By midafternoon I am on the Hill, pursuing several OSHA conferees. Near 4 p.m. I head over to the Cannon House building for an appointment with William Hughes of New Jersey, who, as a member of the House Judiciary Committee, will shortly have to consider the fair housing bill. We plan to visit every committee member to find out if any have problems with the bill.
For this visit I believe I've assembled a strong delegation. To answer technical questions I have Martin Sloane, attorney for the National Committee Against Discrimination in Housing; for political clout, Evelyn Dubrow, queen of the labor lobbyists, whose union, the International Ladies Garment Workers, has a lot of strength in New Jersey. Alas, instead of meeting with Hughes, we meet with regrets. A sudden vote has detained him on the floor.
We tell our story to two aides - and they, in turn, lobby us. Will labor support Hughes in an attempt to get social security for Holocaust victims who, for self-preservation, told the Nazis and, later, U.S. immigration officials that they were younger than they really are? We think labor might.
Because the annual congressional baseball game is being played tonight, the House is going out early. Evie, who must lobby 24 hours a day, is off to the game, a small, commanding figure in a blue pants suit carrying a red and white handbag.
A morning of crises. The Leadership Conference memo is ready to be mailed out, but we're 1,000 envelopes short. I locate some at the Conference office and arrange to have them sent over by messenger. Joe Rauh calls. He thinks the meeting with Frank White on the handicapped bill went well; he feels they talked White out of compromise. White is going to send the committee a memo. Can I check and see if it arrived? I call Darryl Anderson's office and find that the Labor Committee is meeting and our bill is on the agenda. I rush to the Hill. The hearing room is jammed. I'm touched by this interest in the handicapped until I realize they have come to hear Teddy Kennedy discuss his drug bill. I manage to confer with Darryl and Durward McDaniel, director of the American Council of the Blind. Both are uneasy, and with reason. White's memo is here and unfavorable to our purpose. The bill comes up. Two senators have problems with it and it is put off until next Wednesday.
I come back to the office to a lunch fit for a lobbyist: a spread of delicatessen and homebaked pastries. One of the secretaries is retiring. Full of pastrami and rum cake, I go back to my desk. The Senate's out and the House is close to adjournment. I pursue my OSHA assignments by phone. While I wait for call-backs, I call the Leadership Conference and dictate a night letter to all Senate Labor Committee members, urging them to support the handicapped bill without change. Then it hits me: two markups on the same day. Almost the same time! But that dilemma's at least five days off. Immediately ahead, thank God, is the weekend. CAPTION: Picture, no caption