Labor launches counteroffensive to social program spending cuts

In their most forceful reaction to the Reagan administration's attack on social programs, the AFL-CIO has issued a call for all working people to join them in "Solidarity Day" -- a major demonstration in Washington, D.C., Sept. 19.

"The event is for working people, ordinary people, to demonstrate that the Reagan adminstration does not have a mandate to dismantle social and economic programs," says Charlie Hughes, spokesman for the demonstration committee. "We want to show that working people are perfectly capable of speaking for themselves. They do not need the administration to do it for them. They will do it."

Solidarity Day is part of a whole array of measures being launched in organized labor's counteroffensive to Reagan budget cuts.

Speaking at the national convention of the Communication Workers of America recently, Lane Kirkland, AFL-CIO president, explained that many people are unaware of the effects of Reagan's economic programs. "Consequences have been obscured," he said.

Mr. Kirkland contends that social programs can stand up to any argument on merit and should be argued on merit.

The AFL-CIO has called for a special meeting of its executive and general board of representatives to examine ways to mobilize its members for Solidarity Day. At this August meeting, specific tactics to show the Reagan administration that labor is still a driving force will be discussed. For the moment, says Saul Miller, director of information for the AFL-CIO, "We're concentrating on Solidarity Day and continuing lobbying on the hill, keeping the pressure on."

Mr. Miller said Solidarity Day is a grassroots effort to publicly demonstrate that trade union members are behind their leadership.

Invitations to participate in the one-day protest, have been sent out to all AFL-CIO- affiliated unions and other organizations that share common concerns over social justice, including the National Education Association and a wide range of religious, senior-citizen, youth, and minority groups.

The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) has already pledged its cooperation in the demonstration. It will be the group's second march as a national organization. The first was the now-history civil rights march in 1963.

Other nonlabor organizations committed to participate include the National Council of Senior Citizens, American Coalition of Citizens with Disabilities, National Council of Community and Mental Health Centers, and the US Student Association.

The initial focus of the September protest will begin on the west slope of the washington Monument. Some form of entertainment will follow with the formal demonstration beginning at noon. Union leaders, including the AFL-CIO's Kirkland and representatives of other groups will speak. A march will follow.

of 5 stories this month > Get unlimited stories
You've read 5 of 5 free stories

Only $1 for your first month.

Get unlimited Monitor journalism.