AFL-CIO leaders talk politics with Walter Mondale

In the past, the AFL-CIO's policymaking executive council welcomed the President of the United States -- Democrat or Republican -- to meet with it each February to discuss the country's problems. This week, in Bal Harbour, Fla., the council welcomed not President Reagan but the man he defeated last November, Walter Mondale.

During an 80-minute meeting, AFL-CIO leaders and Mr. Mondale discussed the lessons learned from the 1984 election and ways to revitalize the Democratic Party and labor's political action.

The candidate and labor leaders blame Mondale's overwhelming defeat on his poor television appearances and the lack of unity within the Democratic Party.

AFL-CIO president Lane Kirkland said today's presidential candidate faces a difficult time unless he gains ``some mastery of the television tube.'' He added that he does not think labor ``did anything wrong in any basic sense,'' but that it must ``keep trying to improve.''

The federation quickly defended three AFL-CIO government union presidents charged with violating Hatch Act strictures against political activities by federal employees. A council statement said that the charges showed ``anti-union biases and implacable hostilities to the rights of unions and their members.''

While the meetings will produce rhetoric following that line, their importance will be more in what policies and priorities are set. There has been a strong sense of uneasiness among unions that organized labor does not have a positive program but relies too much on generalities. The AFL-CIO will concentrate this year on drafting ``specific proposals'' in economic and social areas, helped by input from outside the labor movement. -- 30 --{et

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