With the White House paying close attention, the AFL-CIO Executive Council gathered today for a week of policy-making on issues ranging from domestic unemployment to the U.S. response in Poland.
The session will be addressed Tuesday by Vice President Bush, who, at President Reagan's request, has taken the lead in building the administration's fragile bridge to the AFL-CIO, the nation's largest labor federation. Secretary of State Alexander M. Haig Jr. is scheduled to make an appearance Friday.
Bush will be accompanied by presidential public liaison Elizabeth Dole, labor adviser Robert F. Bonitati and political adviser Edward Rollins.
But indications are that the White House brigade will find tough wooing here this week. In several preliminary sessions, AFL-CIO president Lane Kirkland has accused the administration of economic, political and social infidelity.
Reagan "promised that his programs would revitalize the economy and produce more jobs for Americans, but he has given us near record post-war unemployment," Kirkland told the federation's Maritime Trade Department over the weekend.
The president "promised that his tax cuts would be fair and equitable, but he has given us a scheme which exempts corporate America from most, if not all, of its tax liability, while throwing mere pennies a week to working people and their families."
In an effort to supply its solutions to the increasingly painful unemployment rate in the construction industry, the federation's Building and Construction Trades Department today unveiled a plan to invest $500 million from union pension funds to create jobs.
Meanwhile, the federation and the White House are at odds over foreign policy issues as well, with Kirkland and other AFL-CIO leaders saying Reagan has not been tough enough in responding to the imposition of martial law in Poland and a crackdown on Solidarity, the Polish trade union.
Kirkand particularly was angered by the administration's move to allow the federal government to spend $71 million to cover the Polish government's default on payments to private U.S. banks.
The AFL-CIO, many of whose members supported Reagan's candidacy in 1980, has packed up its various pieces of discontent and returned to the Democratic fold. The federation, for example, now occupies 15 seats on the Democratic National Committee and five others on the DNC's executive council. The DNC has also created a separate labor advisory council of 20 union presidents.
The DNC labor council's objective is to elect as many Reagan opponents as possible to Congress next year. Some federation leaders here believe they can win 35 House seats for Democrats this year.
To assist that effort, the AFL-CIO in November approved a $14 million, two-year dues increase.
The administration, however, is intent on getting its points across, enough so to come here despite an obvious snub of its labor secretary, Raymond J. Donovan.
Labor secretaries, regardless of party affiliation, traditionally are asked to attend the annual policy-making session, but Donovan was not invited. An executive council member said today, "Kirkland is in charge of sending out the invitations, and he just doesn't like Donovan."
Thorne Auchter, Donovan's assistant secretary for occupational safety and health, will be on hand, however.
The administration's effort to reconcile differences with the AFL-CIO began Dec. 2, when Reagan met at the White House with most of the federation's executive council members. There have been numerous meetings and contacts between the White House and federation leaders since then, according to AFL-CIO and administration officials.
"We may not agree on much; but they can no longer say that we don't at least listen to them and discuss problems with them. I call that progress," a White House official said in Washington last week.