AFL-CIO President George Meany expressed fear yesterday that continued inflation in the United States could lead to "a depression in a short time."
He absolved wage increases as a major inflationary factor and predicted that C.S. postal workers are likely to reject a proposed new contract which their leaders approved.
The contract calls for a 19.5 percent wage increase over the next three years for 550,000 postal employes who are casting ballots by mail on the agreement.
Meany and other labor officials at the AFL-CIO's mid-sumer executive council meeting here are unhappy with the postal contract. They said a 19.5 percent wage increase is inadequate and would set a harmful precedent for other unions.
While disapproving of the postal contract, Meany repeated his arguent that the principal causes of the current inflation rate of about 10 percent are unemployment, high interest rates and rising prices. Wage increases are not the villian, he said. And he was not hopeful that "inflation is going to abate at the present time."
On the postal contract, Meany said "all my inmormation is that they [the workers] will turn it down."
The contract was agreed to by the negotiators under pressure from the White House which opposed an inflationary settlement.
This kind of intervention by the White House, Meany said yesterday, is likely to be counterproductive and may lead to strikes.
He implied that the White House should keep its hands off negotiations, a point he made. Monday in condemning the administration's Barry Bosworth for his jawbone campaign against big wage increases. Bosworth is the director of the Council on Wage and Price Stability.
As a result of Meany's complaints the administration agreed that Bosworth will be restrained in his future comments.
The tentative postal settlement is the administration's only victory so far in its attempt to keep down wage costs as a key part of its voluntary anti-inflation program. In the only other major contracts negotiated this year, coal miners and railroad workers won increases of over 30 percent for the next three years.
Early in the postal bargaining, administration inflation fighters made the postal contract a prime target, although they quieted down after objections from union leaders and Labor Secretary Ray Marshall that the intervention was counterproductive.
But the intervention remained a major irritant in the uneasy relations between Carter and organized labor, prompting demands from Meany for a muzzling of Bosworth.
Marshall came here yesterday to deliver the news personally that a new five-member White House committee headed by himself will be handling bargaining matters in the future."It will no longer be Mr. Bosworth acting by himself," Marshall assured the AFL-CIO leaders.
Meany, pursuing an obviously conciliatory approach toward Carter despite sharp criticism in the past, said yesterday he was "very happy" with the arrangement. He added that he believes "we'll be able to keep that fellow (Bosworth) in check."
In other action, the Executive Council wound up its two-day meeting here by adopting a resolution calling on the U.S. Olympic Committee to transfer the 1980 Olympic Games from Moscow "to a country which respects human rights and the true Olympic spirit."