United Auto Workers President Douglas A. Fraser, in a show of disappointment with the Carter administration and anger at the business community, yesterday pulled out of the administration's chosen vehicle for labor-management cooperation on inflation and other economic problems.
Fraser said the semiofficial Labor-Management Group, composed of 16 top business and labor executives, has become a useless "facade" to disguise a "one-sided class war" by business interests.
He accused business of pursuing "confrontation (rather) than cooperation," citing its so far successful attempt to scuttle the labor law revision bill as the "most serious" example of deteriorating labor-management relations.
As for the administration, Fraser said he had come to the conclusion that it is "ineffective" - unusually deprecatory, language for the leader of a union that was among President Carter's earliest campaign supporters and has remained one of his staunch defenders.
Fraser said Congress, which he described as an "abysmal failure," is more to blame than is Carter and added that any president would find it hard to lead in the post-Watergate, post-Vietnam political climate.
"But the fact is it's an ineffective administrative," he said.
He described the Republicans as a "horrible alternative," but suggested the Democrats may no longer be able to take for granted the support of the politically powerful, 1.5-million-member UAW, second largest union in the country.
Not only may the union endorse more Republicans, he said, but there is increasing talk within union circles of forming a separate "labor party." Fraser said he does not subscribe to this idea but he believes it is gaining ground.
In an attempt to channel the discontent, Fraser said, the UAW will convene a meeting of "old allies and new allies," including labor, liberal, civil rights, church and women's groups, in Detroit this September to map strategy.
He was not specific about where this would lead, but it sounded like the most significant of a number of scattered efforts in recent months to form a left-of-center political coalition.
Fraser emphasized that he didn't resign from the Labor-Management Group because of anything Carter did or didn't do, and said his departure would not affect the administration's economic policies because the group "serves no purpose" anyway.
While there is disagreement even within the administration on the effectiveness of the group, it is about the only forum for the administration to bring together labor and management and forge joint support for administration actions. Such voluntary support has been labeled by Carter as essential to his anti-inflation program.
The group was formed during the Nixon administration and has continued on a semiofficial basis under the leadership of former labor secretary John T. Dunlop.
Other members include the chief offers of General Electric Co., General Motors Corp., Du Pont Co., Bechtel Corp., U.S. Steel Corp., Mobil Oil Corp., Sears Roebuck and Co., First National City Bank of New York, the Teamsters, the AFL-CIO (both President George Meany and Secretary-Treasurer Lane Kirkland) and four of its union affiliates representing steelworkers, textile and apparel workers, seafarers and plumbers.
The action by the UAW, which is independent of the AFL-CIO, puts the huge labor federation in an awkward spot in light of Fraser's strong language.
An AFL-CIO spokesman noted that Meany and Kirkland have said much the same thing and that "discussions on the whole question of relations with corporate leaders" have taken place within the AFL-CIO. But no AFL-CIO leaders have resigned from joint groups so far.
Dunlop, reached in Boston, said he regretted Fraser's resignation and believed it was more reflection of the "very unsatisfactory state of public discussion of the issues" that Fraser raised than a reflection on the committee's work.
In his letter of resignation, Fraser accused business leaders of fighting national health insurance, greater tax equity, the Humphrey-Hawkins full-employment bill and other union-backed economic and a social legislation, while a "dishonest and ugly multimillion-dollar campaign" against the labor bill.
In what could indicate tough bargaining for new auto contracts next year, he also singled out GM for criticism, accusing it of waging a "Southern strategy" to keep the UAW from organizing new plants in the South.