The President of the United Steel Workers served notice yesterday that his union would resist any attempt by the Carter administration to impose an arbitrary standard for wage increases as part of a toughened anti-inflation program.
Lloyd McBride said any limit in the neighborhood of 7 percent a year, the level Carter's economic advisers reportedly are considering, would "diminish" the real standard of living of American workers."
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Prices have been rising at a rate in excess of 9 percent this year.
President Carter has yet to announce a revised anti-inflation campaign, although his advisers have nearly put the finishing touches on one and expect to present it to the president later this week. The program will continue to be voluntary, although the government is expected to use some "carrots and sticks" to help ensure compliance.
McBride said he is particularly concerned about a 7 percent standard because that would erode cost-of-living protection in steel and other labor contracts.
But McBride's critisms, which came in a press conference preceding the union's biennial convention here, were muted.He said steel workers want "to cooperate" as much as they can with any administration efforts to fight inflation.
He noted that President Carter will address the 4,500-delegate convention Wednesday. The president had been scheduled to speak tomorrow, but he asked to push it back one day because he plans to report to Congress on the Camp David summit tomorrow.
AFL-CIO President George Meany is expected to sound a sharp criticism of any anti-inflation program that includes numerical guideposts for acceptable wage behavior when he addresses the steel workers this afternoon.
Labor Secretary Ray Marshall met secretly with Meany and other union leaders last Thursday in the Poconos in an attempt to convince the labor leader to tone down his criticisms of the anticipated anti-inflation program.
Without at least tacit cooperation from organized labor, administration officials see little hope of getting a revised program to work any better than the effort now in place. That program, announced by Carter last April, seeks voluntary cooperation from both business and labor to reduce their wage and price increases in 1978 from levels of the two preceding years.
Marshall apparently was unsuccessful in his attempts to get Meany to change his posture.
Top AFL-CIO officials say, however, Meany will avoid any personal criticism of Carter in the speech, in part because he does not want to lose any negotiating ability with the White House.
McBride told reporters yesterday he has met with administration officials and voiced his concern that a wage standard "such as that being talked about in the newspapers" would wipe out the cost-of-living protection steel workers and others have achieved in recent years.