Robert D. Novak's account of Labor Secretary Elaine L. Chao's visit with the AFL-CIO Executive Council [op-ed, March 3] offered more drama than fact.

Hardly a "fact" in Mr. Novak's column was right, from his description of the room to the length of the meeting to his rendition of the meeting's tone.

This administration is no friend to American workers. Mr. Novak failed to note that Ms. Chao said the administration opposes a minimum wage increase and wants to limit pension guarantees, especially for steelworkers. It also has slashed worker health and safety measures, stripped federal workers of the freedom to have a union, and plans attacks on the Family and Medical Leave Act and on overtime protections. Still, it is a shock to see the Labor Department squander for political purposes an opportunity for real dialogue with representatives of America's workers.

Allowing Mr. Novak to opine for the benefit of the right wing minus basic facts ill-serves The Post's readers.

JOHN J. SWEENEY

President

American Federation of Labor and

Congress of Industrial Organizations

Washington

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Kirstin Downey's Feb. 28 Business article "Unions Angry After Chao's Visit" called Teamsters President James P. Hoffa "a supporter of President Bush."

In January, the Teamsters union and several coalition partners won a court decision halting the administration's attempt to open the southern border to Mexican trucking. The union has also criticized the administration's unfair trade policies and its decision to repeal ergonomics regulations, among other decisions. The Teamsters endorsed Al Gore in 2000.

The Teamsters union does have a dialogue with the White House, and we have worked together on some issues.

But since he was first elected in 1998, Mr. Hoffa has made it clear that the Teamsters have "no permanent friends, only permanent interests." The Post should not assume that the union's efforts to develop relationships mean that its positions on issues important to its members will be stifled.

BRET CALDWELL

Director of Communications

International Brotherhood of Teamsters

Washington