The AFL-CIO, for the first time in its 30-year history, called today for a freeze on military spending if domestic spending is cut or frozen.
The action by the executive council of the 13 million-member labor federation marks a departure from its consistent support of defense-spending increases. It was prompted by what the AFL-CIO called President Reagan's insistence on financing a military buildup through deficit spending and domestic cuts.
"The AFL-CIO remains committed to a strong defense. But we are equally committed to a strong economy and social justice at home. We will, therefore, not support increased defense spending at the expense of programs that are vital to our domestic welfare," president Lane Kirkland said.
"We strongly oppose the proposition that the security of this present generation ought to be paid for by future generations or that the security of the affluent classes in our society ought to be paid for by further stripping the neediest classes in our society," Kirkland added.
Through its 30-year history under Kirkland and his predecessor, the late George Meany, the federation strongly supported defense-spending increases because of its leaders' strong anti-communist views and because many jobs depend on the defense industry.
Kirkland said organized labor still supports increased defense spending, but "only if it is equitably paid for."
During Reagan's first term, the AFL-CIO proposed that military increases be funded by a surtax on corporate and personal income.
But rather than increase taxes, the administraion "has insisted . . . on cutting taxes, especially for the wealthy, thereby shifting a greater burden for defense on working Americans."
Under the president's proposals, defense spending would rise from 21 percent to 30 percent of the federal budget by fiscal 1986, according to AFL-CIO data.
The federation's 35-member executive council also said the cornerstone of tax reform should be restoring corporate tax rates to "fair and equitable" levels by closing loopholes enacted by the Reagan administration in 1981.
Corporate taxes ranged between 20 and 33 percent of federal revenues in the 1950s and 1960s but fell to 15 percent in 1978 and 8.5 percent in 1984, the AFL-CIO said.
The council also adopted a statement saying that the nation's $123 billion trade deficit has become a "crisis" costing an estimated 3 million lost jobs across the spectrum of American industries.
"The U.S. is the only country which exposes its industrial base to unlimited erosion" by its failure to enact more protective trade policies, the council said.
The strongest attack today on the administration's budget plans was aimed at what the labor leaders called the "particularly pernicious scheme" by the Treasury Department to tax the value of employer-paid health benefits.
More than 90 percent of full-time American workers are covered by employer health insurance plans.
"The imposition of such taxes might well encourage employers to freeze or revoke these and other benefits, undermining life-support systems," the council said.
Senate Finance Committee Chairman Bob Packwood (R-Ore.), who met here with the council today, said he strongly opposes the tax, largely because it would lead to cuts in health coverage and would increase the demand on the government to provide such coverage.
"This will be the biggest fight we're going to face this year, and I desperately need their help -- the unions help -- to win it," Packwood said after a private meeting with the council.
Senate Majority Leader Robert J. Dole (R-Kan.) met here Saturday with federation officials but did not voice a position on the issue, an AFL-CIO spokesman said.