New York — Organized labor's unhappiness with the recent sharp rise in unemployment is further eroding its support for President Carter and his administration's inflation-fighting policies.
Across the United States, from the steel mills in Indiana, Ohio, and Pennsylvania to auto assembly plants in Dearborn, Mich., and Mahwah, N.J., thousands of jobs in private industry have been lost in recent weeks.
Joseph O'Mara, president of United Automobile Workers (UAW) Local 906 at the Mahwah, N.J., Ford Motor Company plant scheduled to be closed in June, said the closings were a direct result of "Jimmy Carter and his policies."
And Bernard Jackson, vice-president of Local 906, told the Monitor April 16 that Mr. Carter's anti-inflation policies, coupled with the administration's unwillingness to come to grips with the heavy influx of foreign cars, will throw another 16,000 auto workers out of work "by the end of this month," according to union calculations.
"When a person has to pay more than 20 percent for an automobile loan because of federal policy, they are, by the time they finish four years of payments, paying for the car twice. And no one can afford that," Mr. Jackson said. He said he was "definitely voting for Senator [Edward M.] Kennedy [in the June 3 New Jersey primary]...and whatever workers were thinking otherwise will, because of the things that are happening, change their minds."
About 3,800 assembly plant workers at the mammoth Ford assembly plant in Mahwah, nestled in the picturesque Ramapo Mountains 25 miles outside New York City, were notified that the plant would permanently shut down. Angry union leaders there laid the brunt of their criticism of the Ford action on the shoulders of the Carter administration.
On the same day Ford announced it would cut its work force by a total of 15, 100 nationwide, US Treasury Secretary G. William Miller said that unemployment nationally will rise from the current 6.2 percent of the work force to 7.2 percent shortly before the November election. This translates, Mr. Miller added, to 1 million more workers joining the ranks of the unemployed.
Ford Motor Company, the nation's second-largest automaker, said the closings of the Mahwah plant and two others in the US and Canada, as well as elimination of one shift at four other plants, were necessary to slice expenses at a time when US automobile sales are depressed because of increasing foreign competition , rising gasoline prices, and other factors.
Douglas Fraser, president of the UAW, already has shown his displeasure with Carter administration policy by personally endorsing Sen. Edward M. Kennedy for president.
And although Lane Kirkland, president of the AFL-CIO, has remained officially neutral, high-placed sources within the union say he is clearly upset by the way President Carter's anti-inflation policies are affecting unemployment. The most recent AFL-CIO study shows that the administration policies in this regard will mean the loss of approximately half a million jobs in both the public and private sectors.
Studies on paper, however, don't create the same emotional climate generated by real-life plant shutdowns. Says AFL-CIO spokesman Allan Zack: "Unemployment has traditionally been a more volatile political issue than inflation."