MIAMI BEACH, OCT. 24 -- The AFL-CIO voted today to allow the Teamsters union back into the federation three decades after the union was kicked out as corrupt, and the federation took steps to give indicted Teamster President Jackie Presser a seat on its ruling policy council.
The federation's 35-member executive council debated the Teamster reaffiliation issue for less than an hour before voting unanimously to readmit the 1.8 million-member union. The reaffiliation will take effect Nov. 1.
At the same meeting, the council approved a two-year, $13 million public relations campaign to help improve its image.
The federation opens its biennial convention here Monday, but the reaffiliation question will not be put to a convention vote.
AFL-CIO President Lane Kirkland said at a news conference after the vote that the reaffiliation was part of the goal he stated when he was elected nearly a decade ago: to reunify the trade union movement into a single house of labor. He described the return of the Teamsters as part of that effort to gather the movement's "scattered leaves."
Kirkland revealed that the AFL-CIO also is involved in discussions with the United Mine Workers union, which has never been a member of the AFL-CIO.
Kirkland indicated, however, that affiliation with the UMW is not imminent. "I would love to see the miners back," he said. "I have hopes. I think everyone here would agree to reaffiliation with the miners with enthusiasm."
Unlike the Teamsters, who were booted out of the AFL-CIO 30 years ago for being corrupt, the independence of the mine workers dates back to policy differences between the late UMW President John L. Lewis, who was one of the original leaders of the AFL, and leaders of the nation's trade union movement long before the AFL-CIO was formed.
In recent years, the AFL-CIO and its member unions have worked closely on many issues with the UMW and its president, Richard Trumka.
Kirkland defended the vote to reaffiliate with the Teamsters despite Presser's federal indictment on fraud and racketeering charges and the Justice Department's threat to take over the union on grounds that it is controlled by organized crime.
Four of the last five Teamster presidents dating back to the 1950s have been indicted on corruption charges. Three were convicted and imprisioned. Presser is scheduled to go to trial early next year.
Kirkland said Presser is the only member of the Teamsters' general executive board under indictment and that while he has been charged he has not been convicted. "When an allegation is made, there is a little burden of proof," he said.
He repeated an argument that when the federal government enacted the Landrum-Griffin law in 1950, it took over the role of policing the trade union movement. And since then, he said, that law has been toughened with labor's support.
Several years ago, under the Reagan administration, the law was amended so that the moment a union leader is convicted of certain crimes, he or she must leave office. The law does not permit union officials to remain in office while an appeal is pending.
Kirkand made it clear today that if Pressser is convicted, he will be immediately removed from any AFL-CIO position.
In the meantime, however, the executive council voted to expand its ranks to make room for Presser. The ruling body approved an amendment to the AFL-CIO constitution that would allow the council to create additional seats before the next convention in 1989.
Under the current constitution no one can be voted to the board unless the union has been affiliated with the federation at least 30 days before an AFL-CIO convention.
The effort to reaffiliate the Teamsters was accomplished in less than two weeks following a meeting of Presser, Edward T. Hanley, president of the Hotel Employees and Restaurant Employees International Union, Robert A. Georgine, president of the AFL-CIO Building and Construction Trades Department, and William H. Wynn, president of the United Food and Commercial Workers Union.
After meeting with Presser, Wynn and Georgine met with Kirkland and Thomas R. Donahue, secretary-treasurer for the AFL-CIO, who immediately approved the reffiliation. The Teamster board, with Wynn and Georgine attending, voted unanimously last Monday to reaffiliate.
The reaffiliation effort happened so quickly that many members of the AFL-CIO executive council were unaware of it until late last week.
The addition of the Teamsters gives the AFL-CIO member unions new clout both politically on Capitol Hill and in their efforts to organize and to strike. In many areas, particularly construction and service industries, the Teamsters control the flow of goods and materials.