Labor Leaders Ask Freeze on Defense Spending

Times Labor Writer

The AFL-CIO on Tuesday reversed its traditional support for growth in the nation's military operations, calling for the first time for a freeze on defense spending.

At its annual meeting here last year, the federation's executive council proposed limiting increases in defense spending to 5%. That ended a longstanding policy of supporting what AFL-CIO President Lane Kirkland then called a "blank check" for the military based on Pentagon estimates of its own needs.

But at its current session here, the union leaders went further, saying that the defense budget's "vast acceleration under the Reagan Administration has meant that the federal domestic programs are squeezed relentlessly into an ever-declining share of the nation's gross national product."

Cites Domestic Welfare

Kirkland said that while the AFL-CIO "remains committed to a strong national defense, we are also committed to a strong economy and social justice at home. We will not support increased defense spending at the expense of programs that are vital to our domestic welfare."

The federation had previously proposed a surtax on income taxes if more money was required for defense spending. But the union leaders say that President Reagan has rejected that concept and has "foreclosed all options that could lead to a fair and equitable financing of our military needs."

Kirkland said the best test for the need for increased military spending is "the willingness to pay for it."

He added: "The Administration has maintained that this country faces threats that require a massive military buildup. But if those dangers and threats to our security are not so pressing that we should pay for it (through increased taxes), then they cannot be that pressing."

Future Generations

Kirkland also said that the federation strongly opposes the "proposition that the security of the nation should be paid for by future generations or by stripping the needy classes in our society (through cuts in the social programs)."

The union leaders noted that defense expenditures, "which will have doubled between 1980 and '86," have been a substantial factor in the budget deficit.

They then adopted a series of resolutions, 32 pages long, attacking almost all of Reagan's plans for dealing with what they called the deficits in jobs, trade and the budget, and urged consideration for their own proposals.

For instance, they said the Administration's solution to the budget deficit is "to deny needed federal services to middle- and low-income Americans."

Blame 1981 Tax Cut

But they insisted that the budget deficit is "not the result of social spending," as Reagan contends, but the result of his own "1981 tax cut which has robbed the federal government of needed revenues; the vast acceleration of defense spending; the growing burden of interest on the federal debt, and the economic drag of continued high unemployment."

After listing the programs it opposes, such as cutbacks in job training, education, revenue sharing and long-term unemployment insurance, the federation urged instead a major tax reform and tax simplification program.

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