AFL-CIO to Reagan: get tougher on Polish situation
The AFL-CIO is broadening its attack on the Reagan administration by sharply criticizing its moves to protest repression in Poland, calling them ''only a slap on the wrist'' when more forceful action is called for.Skip to next paragraph
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Lane Kirkland, president of the labor federation, says he is ''shocked'' by the way President Reagan, a lifelong anticommunist, has handled the Polish crackdown on its Solidarity union movement under pressures from Moscow.
Mr. Kirkland, who recently visited London and Paris to confer with European trade union leaders on the Polish situation, met recently with President Reagan, Vice-President George Bush, and others in the administration to plead for stronger actions in support of thousands of union officials and workers ''detained'' since the communists imposed military rule and suppressed unions.
''The rulers of Poland must be put on notice that there will be no business-as-usual with a government that uses force to crush its own people,'' Mr. Kirkland says. ''The military regime must be shown that it cannot establish a viable economy with a bayonet at the throat of its workers.''
President Reagan, Vice-President Bush, and others who heard Kirkland's appeal were sympathetic but explained that the government is limited in options to cope with recurrent crises on Soviet orders. Although angry and frustrated, they said , they had only political and economic options and must try to avoid any action that would further inflame a critical situation.
AFL-CIO recommendations, advanced by Kirkland, include an embargo against the USSR - a shut-off of shipments of grain, high-technology equipment, and machinery.
So far, President Reagan has moved to shut off trade with Poland, suspended its fishing rights in American waters, and closed US airports to Polish planes. This week he took first ''measured steps'' to tighten the screws on Moscow. The AFL-CIO considers these to be ''steps in the right direction'' but short of what should be done.
Meanwhile, US labor is taking its own steps. The International Longshoremen's Association has announced that its members will not handle any cargo except emergency food and medical supplies to be distributed in Poland through a recognized charity.
The unions are seeking international labor support for embargoes and boycotts against Poland and the Soviet Union. But Kirkland reports British officials privately say that though there is sympathy for the Polish people, there is also a belief that radical leaders in Solidarity ''pushed too far'' and that the West should not react too strongly.
AFL-CIO does not agree, and it hopes to persuade the Reagan administration, with support from liberal Democrats and Republicans, that it should be prepared to act alone.