AFL-CIO President Lane Kirkland has accused the Labor Department of trying to kill a federal regulation that keeps state employment offices from filling jobs that are vacant because of strikes or other labor disputes.
In a letter to Labor Secretary Raymond J. Donovan, Kirkland said the Reagan administration intentionally proposed deleting a section of the Wagner-Peyser Act that protects union workers' jobs during labor troubles. The administration has begun revising the act because passage of the Job Training Partnership Act of 1982 made sections of it outdated.
Section 653.8 prohibits state employment agencies from referring workers to any job "which is vacant because the former occupant is on strike or is being locked out in the course of a labor dispute . . . ." That regulation or rules similar to it have been in effect since 1934, but when the administration published its proposed revisions to the act July 25 in the Federal Register, Section 653.8 had disappeared.
Omitting Section 653.8 "without explanation nor reference" is an attempt by the administration to convert government employment agencies into "scab referral services," Kirkland told reporters.
A spokesman for Albert A. Angrisani, the assistant Labor secretary responsible for the proposed revisions, refused to comment or confirm that Section 653.8 had been dropped.
"It has been the department's practice not to discuss comments submitted until the final regulations are effected," he said.
Other labor officials, who asked not to be identified, countered Kirkland's charges by referring reporters to a sentence in the administration's proposal that said none of the revisions are "intended to diminish any existing protections in the law." That sentence could apply to the rule forbidding the filling of strikers' jobs, they suggested, even though it doesn't mention Section 653.8 specifically.
They also suggested the section might reappear in the next few weeks when the department publishes its final rules.
Kirkland, however, said the department's action would have gone unnoticed and uncorrected if the AFL-CIO hadn't compared the existing Wagner-Peyser Act to the administration's proposal.
"It is, I believe, an understatement to say that the department's approach has been less than completely honorable," Kirkland said. "It shows far less in the way of fair and open dealing than we have a right to expect of our government."