The all-male, predominantly white executive council of the AFL-CIO today approved a plan to add at least two women or minority-group members to its ranks.
The action came here at the federation's 24th annual midwinter meeting.
The plan calls for a waiver of the traditional requirement that persons sitting on the 35-member executive council hold one of two top offices -- president or secretary-treasurer -- in their own unions.
The waiver applies to two seats already in the council, which, at the moment, has no vacancies. Council members are elected at the federation's biennial constitutional convention.
The AFL-CIO'S executive body has one black member, Frederick O'Neal, president of the Associated Actors and Artistes Union. O'Neal abstained from voting today because he said he is dissatisfied with the scope of the council's affirmative action plan.
"I would say it's a step in the right direction, but it just doesn't go far enough," O'Neal said in an interview following the council's action. "I don't think we should drop the matter here . . . I certainly don't intend to."
O'Neal said he did not express those sentiments at the executive session because, he said, fellow council members are well aware of his feelings.
In a meeting with reporters, AFL-CIO President Lane Kirkland defended the council's plan as the best available at the moment.
"I deny that we're moving too late," said Kirkland, who added that he "is quite confident" that female and minority representation will increase "in due course" in the federation's hierarchy.
Kirkland reminded reporters that organized labor played a key role in the civil rights movement and was a primary supporter of federal civil rights legislation.
"I feel no shame whatsoever about the role of organized labor in civil rights," he said. At another point, he commented: "We have not been laggard or indifferent in recognizing the role of minorities in the labor movement."