The Carter administration, stung by a U.S. District Court ruling that bars it from punishing violators of its anti-inflation wage guideline, joined the AFL-CIO yesterday in seeking a swift appeals court resolution of the dispute.
In a heavy blow to the administration's already battered guidelines program, U.S. District Court Judge Barrington Parker ruled Thursday that President Carter exceed his authority by threatening guideline violators with denial of federal contracts.
Parker signed an order yesterday enjoining the administration from enforcing the sanction against violators of the wage standard. But, at the request of the AFL-CIO, the agreement of the Justice Department, Parker delayed implementation of the order until next Wednesday. This was done to give both sides time to arrange an expedited appeal.
After the Justice Department filed notice of appeal with the U.S. Court of Appeals here, the two sides asked the appeals court to approve a fast-track schedule that would culminate in a hearing June 18 and presumably a decision shortly thereafter.
They told the court that they would agree to extend the stay pending a decision if the expedited schedule is approved.
The appeals court is expected to act on the joint request early next week.
Meanwhile, administration officials reported no immediate consensus on what to do if Parker's ruling is upheld. Although congressional sources reported feelers from the administration about legislation to authorize the sanctions, officials said the discussions did not reflect a high-level decision to seek legislation.
In any case, congressional reaction to any kind of wage-price control legislation is cool, if not hostile, according to House and Senate sources.
The procedural cooperation between the AFL-CIO and Justice Department apparently reflects a decision to avoid legal maneuvers or delaying tactics in favor of joint action to get a swift resolution of the issue - which the two sides described in their joint motion as one of "extraordinary public significance."
Partly as a result of the AFL-CIO's agreement to endorse a stay of Judge Parker's order, the administration's high-level "collective bargaining group" - composed of senior economic officials - agreed tentatively yesterday not to use the contract denial penalty while the stay was in effect.
"But we made it clear we were going to do whatever else we could to assure compliance during this period," said one of the participants. "We are committed to the guidelines and to seeing that they are followed." He added the administration probably will be doing more "jawboning and finger-pointing" than it has in the past.
The procurement sanction, imposed shortly after Carter announced his guidelines program last fall, denies any federal contracts of $5 million or more to companies that violate either the wage or the price guidelines.
Although Judge Parker found no legal validity for enforcing either of the guidelines by economic penalties, he restricted his injunction yesterday to the pay standard, which seeks to limit wage and beneft increases to 7 percent a year.
He apparently did this because the AFL-CIO did not challenge enforcement of the price standard. "Let them hire their own lawyers," said an AFL-CIO official yesterday, nodding in the direction of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce headquarters.
Even before Parker's ruling, the 8-month-old guidelines program was reeling from persistently mounting inflation, now running at a rate that, if it continues, could be nearly 14 percent this year, and union demands for more than 7 percent a year to keep pace with soaring prices.
Although administration officials characterize the procurement penalties as less important than bad publicity for violators, they say they want the sanctions in place as an added deterrent against the risk of guidelinesbusting settlements by several big unions this spring and summer, winding up with the powerful United Auto Workers in September. A first test could come with the United Rubber Workers. That union resumes negotiations Tuesday with Uniroyal Inc. after a three-week strike and bargaining impasse over the guidelines.
While the AFL-CIO is seeking mandatory wage, price and profit controls, the administration has thus far adamantly ruled out any controls program and was described yesterday as weeks away from a decision on what revisions to make in its guidelines program, which expires in the fall.
Among those discouraging any attempts to enact sanctions through legislation were Sen. William Proxmire (D-Wis.) and Rep. Henry S. Reuss (D-Wis.), chairmen of the two congressional banking committees.
"The Congress is not receptive to mandatory price-wage controls of any kind," said Reuss. "Since the court has declared that denial of contracts amounts to mandatory controls, I would say that settles that, assuming the decision is upheld."
Said Proxmire: "There is strong opposition to any form of wage and price controls and this is viewed as at least a half-step in that direction."