Auto workers ready to rejoin AFL-CIO

The United Automobile Workers union (UAW) is expected to be back in the AFL-CIO before the labor federation's biennial convention in New York next November.

Although the final decision to reaffiliate has not been made by the UAW, union president Douglas A. Fraser said "soundings" taken among the union's members indicate that a return to the AFL-CIO will be approved. Reaffiliation would add more than a million workers to the American Federation of Labor-Congress of Industrial Organizations, which now has 13.6 million members. It would end a 23-year UAW break with the federation.

The auto workers' union split away in 1958 largely because of serious policy differences between the late George Meany, longtime president of the AFL-CIO, and the late Walter-Reuther, who was president of the UAW, a union of employees in the auto, aircraft, farm equipment, and related industries.

Mr. Fraser was in Bal Harbour, Fla., for an International Metal Workers union meeting recently while the AFL-CIO's executive council was in session there. At that time he talked with a number of members of the council, including Lane Kirkland, president of the federation, about stronger labor collaboration in dealing with the Reagan administration and opposing its budget and tax proposals.

"I gave Mr. Kirkland an update and told him that, although important precints are out, so far the soundings have gone favorably" on reaffiliation with the AFL- CIO, Mr. Fraser said.

Reaffiliation appeared on the way three years ago, but the UAW drew back because of resistance at both national and local levels.

Several factors recently have given greater urgency to a return to the AFL-CIO: Mr. Kirkland's succession to the presidency and other changes within the AFL-CIO have made its present policies more acceptable; the UAW's troubles within the auto industry, causing sharp membership losses, have increased that union's interest in a tightening of union ranks, and labor's political setbacks in 1980 have further increased convictions that labor solidarity now is vital.

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