Organized labor has its eye on the new Congress and is gearing up to push legislators for more jobs and a massive reindustrialization program, to be fueled by carefully targeted incentives rather than indiscriminate tax cuts for business.
The labor movement wants specific actions to reshape international trade policies, to bolster the sagging auto and steel industries, and to make a start on a synthetic fuels program.
And, according to AFL-CIO legislative director Ray Denison, labor intends to "put strong emphasis on defending against dangerous job cuts and poor administration" of vital programs which may be trampled by legislators seeking to trim the federal budget.
But labor's position in the 97th Congress is the weakest that it has been in years. Labor recognizes that there is a potential in 1981 and 1982 for "repressive legislation and conservative programs that will hurt American workers," but, according to Mr. Denison, it hopes that moderate forces will prevail.
"There is nothing to be gained if warfare on the Hill pits the American labor movement against hard-nosed, right-wing zealots," Denison said in Washington a few days ago. A sustained effort to move toward a full-employment economy built on a stable base would be far more important, Dennison continued, adding, "that will be the key battleground for the labor movement in 1981."
Labor's determination to seek government efforts to restore the vitality of US industry was stressed during a recent conference sponsored by AFL- CIO's Industrial Union Department. Lane Kirkland, president of the federation, noted that 2 million manufacturing jobs have been lost during the past decade. He deplored the lack of "a coherent national policy" designed to reverse "this ominous trend."
The AFL-CIO and the United Automobile Workers are urging quick passage of bills to aid the auto industry and broaden help for workers unemployed because of imports. Labor leaders are also calling for import quotas -- temporary, if not permanent -- and changes in monetary policies to help consumers buy cars and industry to upgrade production facilities.