Proposed affiliation of the United Auto Works with the AFL-CIO had run into stiff resistance from UAW locals and is in doubt, according to Douglas A. Fraser, who is expected to be elected president of the auto union next month.
In an interview with Washington Post reporters and editors on Thursday, Fraser also said his union does not shake the AFL-CIO's critical view of the Carter administration on issues such as import restrictions.
"We don't take the same dim view of the President's performance as the AFL-CIO," said Fraser, who is running without opposition to succeed the retiring UAW President Leonard Woodcock.
But the opposition to reaffilation stem less from political differences than it does from an increasing fear that the 1.4 million-member UAW will lose some of its identity if it goes back into the 14-million-member labor federation, Fraser said,
The UAW left the federation in 1968 in a dispute between AFL-CIO President George Meany and the late Walter Reuther, who was then the president of the UAW. UAW leaders including Woodcock and Fraser, recently began urging an end to the nine-year estrangement, and the issue is planned to come to a vote at a special UAW convention in September.
Reaffiliation would be a boon to the AFL-CIO in that it would return the nation's largest industrial union to its midst. But it would also strengthen the voice of those within the labor federation who challenge Meany on foreign policy and other issues.
"If you'd asked me five weeks ago [if reaffilation would be approved], I'd have said positively yes," said Fraser. "Now I'm in doubt. There's a great well since 1968, why change?" Fraser [WORD ILLEGIBLE]
Local unions fear "we'd lose our identity," and "say we've done very well since 1968, why change?" Fraser said.
Fraser said he, too, would oppose rejoining the AFL-CIO if it was simply a matter of what's "good for the UAW as an institution." He said he support reaffiliation "because of a sense of duty and responsibility to the labor movement as a whole . . . it's almost an obligation."
Fraser said the UAW agrees "95 per cent" with the AFL-CIO on most issues, but disagrees almost totally on foreign policy and trade.
The UAW believes generally in free trade and thus did not share the AFL-CIO's indignation at Carter's recent refusal to order restrictions on shoe imports, Fraser said. Nor, he added, does he agree with Meany's criticism of Carter's decision to help curb the spread of nuclear weapons by shelving the plutonium breeder reactor project.
Fraser also said the AFL-CIO's insistence that the State Department refuse visas to Communist labor leaders was "ridiculous." UAW leaders including Woodcock, once had to go to Canada to meet with some Soviet trade union officials, he said.
The UAW's primary complaint thus far with the Carter administration is its reluctance to push national health insurance, Fraser said.
He said the UAW was also disappointed when Carter withdrew his $50 tax rebate proposal and is "apprehensive" about the impact of his energy program on foreign car imports.
Fraser said he would prefer continuation of congressionally mandated fuel efficiency standards to Carter's proposal for standby gasoline tax increases, contending that price increases are ineffective in curbing gasoline usage.
American auto manufacturers have resisted building smaller, fuel-saving cars because there was more profit in big cars, said Fraser, but can produce small cars that that are competitive with foreign imports if they insist on quality control and better performance by dealers.