Senate Marjority Leader Howard H. Baker Jr. (R-Tenn.) today won from the ALF-CIO executive council a limited pledge to cooperate with Reagan administration efforts to control the economy.
"We discussed the president's economic plan as we now know it," said Baker, who was invited to speak before a closed-door strategy session at the council's annual midwinter meeting.
"The essence of the meeting was to explore the possiblity of future cooperation between the Republican administration, the Republican majority in the Senate and the labor movement in the United States," Baker said.
He said he had spoken with President Reagan before leaving Washington Sunday but that he did not go to the meeting particularly to sell the president's economic plan, which will be presented to the nation Wednesday night on national television. Still, Baker said today's discussion here of "what already is known" about Reagan's program was conducted "in good spirit of cooperation."
AFL-CIO President Lane Kirkland, in a press conference after the session, agreed to cooperate with the administration, but said his cooperation depends on the points Reagan will make Wednesday night and whether long-held federation policies are challenged. m
"We wish the new administration success. We have a stake in their success as citizens, and we want to cooperate with them to the maximum extent possible," Kirkland said. "But we have views and opinions that we believe are sound, and we intend to adhere to them."
For example, the federation's 35-member council today approved a resolution opposing budget cuts as a way to improve the economy through controlling inflation. The administration is proposing "across-the-board cuts" affecting a wide range of social and economic programs, many of them favorites of organized labor.
"Budget cuts will not protect the economy from spiraling energy and food costs, nor will they bring down housing costs," the council said in a statement.
"At a time like the present, when large portions of plant capacity stand idle and when a big segment of the labor force is unemployed, federal budget cuts will only aggravate already sluggish economic conditions," it said.
However, Kirkland and council members said this does not mean they have no interest in balancing the federal budget. Their contention is that a balanced budget can come about only when both labor and capital resources "are fully used . . . to reduce unemployment."
Despite the atmosphere of cooperation, some union leaders here remain skeptical about the council's approach to the administration's economic programs.
On the matter of proposed tax cuts, the council seemed to be more accommodating. In the past, the AFL-CIO had opposed tax cuts as a way of encouraging increased productivity through increased consumer spending.
Now the federation's leaders say they would favor individual tax cuts so long as they are targeted at middle-income and lower-income families.
Specifically, the federation is calling for refundable tax credit equal to 20 percent of an employe's, and 5 percent of an employer's, Social Security tax. It claims the benefits from this "would be concentrated on middle- and low-income wage earners . . . who have suffered the most from inflation" and "would more than offset the recent increases in Social Security taxes on workers."
The federation leaders believe their tax cut proposal would result in a $160-a-year tax reduction for a family of four earning $12,000 annually. The administration's tax reduction plan would result in a $92 annual saving for the same family, according to the federation leaders.
The federation also called for credit controls aimed at lowering interest rates, maintaining natural gas price controls and presidential authority for oil price controls, a reindustrialization program to invest public and private funds in necessary projects and expanded training programs for adult workers and youth.