The Executive Council of the AFL-CIO decided yesterday to take no position on the abortion issue in the November elections.
"The AFL-CIO yields to the good and sound judgment of union members . . . that they choose to pursue their goals on reproductive issues within political, legislative and legal arenas as their individual consciences dictate," AFL-CIO Executive Council members, meeting in Chicago, said in a statement.
An 18-member committee of AFL-CIO vice presidents studying the abortion issue recommended to the Executive Council Monday that the 14.2 million-member federation continue its tradition of remaining neutral.
AFL-CIO President Lane Kirkland said only two or three members of the 34-member council dissented during yesterday's voice vote.
Union officials who advocate abortion rights had been urging the AFL-CIO to support their view, arguing the issue affects women and minorities, two groups labor is trying to attract.
But others urging neutrality contended that taking a position on the abortion issue could split the rank and file, threatening unions' organizing efforts. They said abortion had nothing to do with traditional collective bargaining issues such as hours and pay.
There was no organized move for the federation to condemn abortion. However, the Rev. George Higgins, a Roman Catholic priest, warned the advisory panel that if labor adopted an abortion-rights policy it would "suffer dire consequences" and risk "alienating a large segment of its membership."