AFL-CIO President George Meany today rejected President Carter's request that business and labor give advance notification to the government of proposed wage and price increases.
While asserting that the Carter administration was 'generally off to a good start with organized labor despite disagreements about the administration's economic package, Meany told reporters at the start of the AFL-CIO's midwinter executive council meeting here that labor will not co-operate in any program of prenotification for wage increases.
"We are absolutely opposed, absolutely, completely opposed to it even if Billy Carter [the President's brother] wanted it," said the 82-year-old head of the 14-million-member labor federation. The AFL-CIO, he added, will "not cooperate."
In his message to Congress outlining the proposed $31.2 billion economic stimulus package last month. Carter urged that business and labor cooperate in giving "voluntary prior notice of important wage and price increases" to the government's Council on Wage and Price Stability.
Carter, who previously backed off from a campaign proposal for standby authority to impose wage and price controls, said he believed both labor and management would be willing to cooperate in a voluntary program to control inflation by giving advance notice of potentially inflationary actions. Prenotification would give time for "jawboning" or other efforts to modify the increases.
Meany, who has been recovering recently from a cataract operation, said he was not aware of Carter's most recent proposal until reporters asked him about it today. But he said that Charles L. Schultze, chairman of Carter's Council of Economic Advisers, advocates a governmental wage-price policy and said that puts Schultze in the same category as his Republican predecessor, Alan Greenspan, who was not one of Meany's favorites.
"A fella by the name of Alan Green-span, he's still over there," said Meany, figuratively nodding toward Washington. "But he's changed his name to Charlie Schultze. He'd like to go this route [of wage and price controls or guidelines] and he's very timidly approaching it. But we're wise to him . . . The only one in the administration who seems to like this guideline, and of course he'd like very much to have controls, is Charlie Schultze."
Both Carter and Schultze have rejected all forms of mandatory wage-price controls, including mandatory prenotification of wage and price increases. But both have backed a system of voluntary prenotification.
Meany said he opposes prenotification because it would "destroy our flexibility at the bargaining table" and lead ultimately to wage and price controls. "Notification, then the next thing is voluntary guidelines and the first thing you know, wage and price controls."
The week-long executive council meeting got under way with an hour-long, closed-door session with Labor Secretary F. Ray Marshall, who told reporters afterward that the administration's ties with organized labor were strong enough to withstand disagreement on some specific points, such as the economic stimulus package.
Meany reiterated his charge that the package doesn't earmark enough money for job-creating programs but said the disagreement was a "reasonable" one.
He went out of his way to praise Marshall, saying he was "very well equipped" for the job despite little experience in the collective bargaining field. He also noted that Marshall, unlike Schultze, opposes advance notification for wage and price increases.
As for other Carter personnel selections, Meany said that "by and large the appointments are good," although he personally would not have chosen Paul C. Warnke, who has come under fire from anti-Soviet hardliners, as head of the Arms Control and Disarmament Agency and chief U.S. arms control negotiator.
In line with Meany's own hardline policy, it was disclosed today that exiled Russian dissident Vladimir Bukovsky will address the AFL-CIO executive council on Friday.
Meany said he is satisfied thus far with Carter's efforts to communicate with organized labor. "The only commitment that this man made to me during the campaign was that his door would be open . . .," said Meany, "and so far he has kept that commitment and I think he is going to keep it." Asked about speculation that he might announce his retirement this week. Meany, who has headed the labor federation for 20 years, said "As of now, I'm not thinking about it. Ask me tomorrow."