AFL-CIO President George Meany yesterday added President Carter's decision to shelve the plutonium breeder reactor project to his list of grievances against the administration he helped elect.
Referring to the President at one point as "little Jimmy," Meany also urged labor to go all out for passage of a minimum wage higher than the $2.50 an hour that Carter recommended. The present wage floor is $2.30 an hour, and the AFL-CIO is seeking $3.
In a speech to 3,000 delegates at a national conference of the AFL-CIO's construction unions, Meany said Carter's recent decision to suspend federal support for the reactor - designed to produce move plutonium than it uses - would cost jobs and eliminate a major future energy source.
But Meany said the decision would not lead to Carter's goal of halting the spread of nuclear weapons because other nations won't stop using plutonium that can be made into bombs. He described Carter's decision as a "beautiful idea" that "has no following in the world."
Aside from the "little Jimmy" comment. Meany's rhetoric was restrained, in comparison at least to the acerbic comments about the President from AFL-CIO leaders recently on the minimum wage, shoe imports and other issues. But AFL-CIO Building Trades President Robert A. Georgine described the reactor decision as "sheer folly" and a "very dangerous" mistake.
Georgine said the decision would cost 32,000 jobs and more than $1 billion in lost wages. "Do you think the Soviet Union and other nations such as France and England will follow our 'wonderful' example of abandoning this energy source?" he asked.
In a speech to the conference, Labor Secretary Ray Marshall cited the recent congressional defeat of the construction unions' common site picketing bill and said it reflected "an increase in antiunion feeling that has had a devastating effect" on labor-related legislation.
Marshall said the American public has "been sold a bill of goods" that labor is responsible for inflation which he said isn't true. More important are factors such as the weather and oil and coffee prices, he said.