AFL-CIO President Lane Kirkland, who started burning his bridges to the Reagan administration months ago, today almost finished the job with a fiery attack that brought a standing ovation from delegates attending the federation's 14th constitutional convention here.
He said among many other things that the administration "promised us a boom but brought us a bust"; has "drained the public purse to lavish welfare on the greedy rich," and has left our allies in "dismay and division" while indulging in "the appeasement of the Saudi, financial-industrial complex with gifts of costly and exotic weapons, paid for in higher oil prices by the American consumer."
But the administration sent in an emergency brigade to dampen, if not extinguish, the rhetorical flames. The Reagan aides, a team of three led by chief of White House labor liaison Robert Bonitati, carried copies of a presidential memorandum "to heads of all departments and agencies" instructing them to "seek the advice and counsel of organized labor on public policy issues." The memorandum was signed by President Reagan today.
The aides also brought a letter from White House aide Elizabeth H. Dole, dated Nov. 13, inviting Kirkland, AFL-CIO Secretary Treasurer Thomas Donahue and the federation's 33 member executive council to a White House meeting with Reagan on Dec. 2.
"We're doing this in reaction to what we see as the reluctance of a number of labor officials to communicate with the administration," Bonitati said. "The president wants to communicate with them and will do everything he can to communicate with them."
Neither Reagan, Labor Secretary Raymond J. Donovan nor any other member of the administration was invited to address the convention. Bonitati, Thaddeus Garrett, domestic affairs adviser to Vice President Bush, and White House deputy political adviser Edward J. Rollins had sought and were granted permission to attend the convention.
Kenneth Young, executive assistant to Kirkland, said the AFL-CIO leader had been contacted by the administration before his speech today and that Kirkland and most of the executive council members probably would attend the Dec. 2 meeting.
But Kirkland today was unyielding, delivering what many here called his best speech since assuming the AFL-CIO presidency two years ago.
Using Biblical quotes, English limericks and stag party humor, Kirkland attacked the administration's domestic and foreign policies--as he has done numerous times in the past--and lambasted its embattled budget director, David A. Stockman, who expressed serious misgivings about Reagan's economic program in the current Atlantic Monthly.
Stockman was "the original interior decorator of this economic house of ill repute," Kirkland said. "Now that the sirens are sounding and the bust is due, he has his story ready. He was only the piano player in the parlor. He never knew what was going on upstairs."
Ridiculing Stockman's apology to Reagan for what the budget director called his "loose talk" in the magazine interview, Kirkland said: "Now . . . he tells us that it was all a foolish mistake, that he was only guilty of being the south end of a northbound Trojan horse."
In the Atlantic, Stockman said the Kemp-Roth tax plan for three straight years of annual 10 percent reductions in tax rates "was always a Trojan horse to bring down the top rate." The article also quotes Stockman as saying, "Supply-side is 'trickle-down' theory."
Kirkland also criticized Reagan: "The president, we are told, is the great communicator. But so were many other heads of state in history whose policies left suffering and distress in their wake."
Former vice president Walter F. Mondale, a labor favorite who is regarded as a Democratic presidential contender for 1984, also addressed the convention. He accused the Reagan administration of working to undermine organized labor's gains over the years and of attempting, despite yesterday's actions, to shut labor out of government circles.