Glenn Watts, president of the Communications Workers of America, yesterday accused the Reagan administration of "driving a wedge between labor and corporate America" at a time when these elements should be working together to prevent the nation from becoming a second-rate industrial power.
In a biting speech at the National Press Club, Watts touched on a set of themes being pushed increasingly by labor-oriented Democrats as the 1984 presidential race heats up.
Watts, who also is co-chairman of the Democratic National Committee's Labor Council, challenged all presidential candidates to make this issue a top priority.
"Collectively--as a nation--we are about as prepared for the future as a skid row derelict," he warned. "Nothing, beyond the issue of war and peace, is of greater urgency for the United States than the need to forge such a national strategy."
The Reagan administration has "given only lip service to these concerns," he said, with the exception of Trade Representative William E. Brock, "a lone voice in the wilderness."
He cited the familiar ills: highest unemployment levels since the Depression, obsolete factories, crumbling cities and a "masochistic" foreign policy.
"But," he added, "our biggest handicap of all is a leadership vacuum in the White House of cavernous proportions."
Watts' union represents 650,000 workers, most of them in the Bell System, which is on the brink of a massive divestiture.
Watts outlined a "Worker Bill of Rights" featuring such goals as employment security and repeated retraining for all workers "as technological change sweeps the work places."
These matters will be at issue in bargaining between the union and the Bell System, beginning May 19. Watts does not expect the communications workers to agree to any concessions, he said, noting that if wage increases were based on productivity, the workers could justify asking for 7 percent raises.