Unions grow more dissatisfied with Reagan labor policies

By , Special to The Christian Science Monitor

No Reagan administration officials attended the recent AFL-CIO convention in Florida - none would have been welcomed, as relations between the US Labor Department and most of organized labor have slipped to a new low point.

In part, labor's dissatisfaction is political: It is President Reagan's Department of Labor, and labor leaders would like to embarrass him in as many ways as possible before the '84 election. However, there is also a growing conviction in unions that the Labor Department, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), and other administration agencies have lost their objectivity and become business-oriented.

Labor leaders resent the fact that US Labor Secretary Raymond J. Donovan is auditing the books of international unions ''without cause or specific justification.'' They say the administration is trying to find scandal for political purposes to discredit labor leaders. ''It is witch hunting,'' says Murray Seeger of AFL-CIO.

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Secretary Donovan takes exception to that. The audits, he says, are designed to protect the interests of the rank-and-file in unions. The Landrum-Griffin Act says the Labor Department is responsible for overseeing that union members' dues are spent for ''proper purposes,'' he says.

''Many unions have not been audited (by the Labor Department) for 22 years. This is just a matter of doing our job under the law,'' he says.

Until now, audits generally were confined to union locals suspected of major violations of federal labor laws. There were 72 in the last year of the Carter administration. Under Reagan, audits reached to 904 in 1981 and 700 in 1982.

In the past year, audits have been extended to international unions. Fourteen have been audited so far and several more audits are under way, says a Labor Department spokesman.

Meanwhile, sharpening criticism of the NLRB, the agency that handles labor-management disputes, stems from appointments to the board during the Reagan administration. The AFL-CIO opposes what it calls ''blatantly political appointments'' to the board that could make the NLRB ''an instrument of anti-union employers and employer groups.''

The AFL-CIO also is critical of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. The agency, it says, was fairly successful in enforcing safety and health standards before Reagan took office. Now, it says, there have been moves to ''roll back the progress that has been made in courts and through administrative action.''

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