Dukakis Campaigns for Trade Bill : Assails Reagan, Bush Over Threat of Veto, Lauds Job Safeguards

Times Staff Writer

Michael S. Dukakis, who has juggled his jobs as Massachusetts governor and Democratic presidential candidate all year, managed to join the two Wednesday in an appearance in support of the federal trade bill.

Dukakis the candidate privately telephoned four Democratic leaders in Congress to offer encouragement for the Senate vote on the bill Wednesday. Dukakis also publicly lambasted President Reagan and Vice President George Bush for threatening to veto the bill over the measure's plant-closing provisions.

Dukakis the governor wrote to Reagan on official stationery urging him not to veto the bill. And he drove to Springfield, in western Massachusetts, to pose with businessmen whose companies had survived with state aid similar to that in the proposed federal bill.

The Senate approved the sweeping trade bill, 63 to 36, on Wednesday and sent it to the White House, but supporters failed to muster the two-thirds support needed to override the threatened veto.

White House Opposition

The White House and major business associations fought the bill because of a provision that requires companies to provide 60 days' notice of major plant closings or layoffs. They say the bill would intrude into the private affairs of business.

But organized labor and Democratic leaders argue that such notification is necessary to protect workers' rights. Dukakis strategists, moreover, say the fight gives the likely Democratic nominee a populist, anti-corporate, blue-collar issue for the fall.

It was no coincidence, Dukakis aides said, that Dukakis stepped up his assault the morning after he cemented his claim as Democratic front-runner by winning a landslide in Pennsylvania's presidential primary.

"It's the first major bill moving through the Congress since he's been the front-runner," said John DeVillars, chief of operations at the Statehouse here. "It was also a chance to demonstrate to congressional leaders Michael's style of leadership."

Major Issue in Fall

Dukakis, who has touted his state's plant-closing law as a national model, said Wednesday he intends to make plant closings a major part of his presumed general election campaign against George Bush.

"I mean, where is he on the plant-closing law?" Dukakis said at a Statehouse news conference. "Doesn't he think it's the right and fair thing to at least let workers and their families know 60 days in advance if they'll be thrown out of work? Isn't this an important issue?"

Bush, in a campaign stop in Cincinnati on Tuesday, said that while such notice was "compassionate," it was not "competitive" because it would put competing firms at an advantage.

"It has to do with competitiveness," Bush said during a visit to a Procter & Gamble research laboratory. "They've added something that doesn't really sound germane to the bill."

Telephones Leaders

DeVillars said Dukakis telephoned Senate Majority Leader Robert C. Byrd of West Virginia, Senate Finance Committee Chairman Lloyd Bentsen of Texas, House Majority Whip Tony Coelho of California, and House Speaker Jim Wright of Texas.

"He said: 'How does it look? What if anything can I do to help? Here's what I've been doing on the stump. Here's what I'm doing today, going to Springfield, to put a human face on this. And would it help or complicate matters if I send a letter to the President on this?' "

All four are "super delegates" to the Democratic National Convention in Atlanta, and Bentsen and Coelho have been mentioned as possible running mates should Dukakis win the nomination.

DeVillars said Dukakis wanted to demonstrate his style of leadership to the four influential Democrats. "We wouldn't think of making a statement on an important piece of legislation here without consulting extensively and working in concert with legislative leaders," DeVillars said. "It's a style of governance he believes in."

Under a Massachusetts law passed in 1984, companies are encouraged to tell workers 90 days in advance of plant closings. The law guarantees three months extended health insurance after a plant closing and established job retraining and placement programs. State officials also were empowered to work with management and union leaders to keep plants open.

Assistance Centers

According to the governor's office, agencies created under the law have set up 45 assistance centers and have helped retrain and find comparable paying jobs for more than 13,000 dislocated workers.

The state's Industrial Services Program has coordinated high-risk loans and management consulting to 235 companies in danger of closing. The ISP made 24 direct loans or investments, totaling $5.6 million, and leveraged $31 million for other lenders and investors, according to the office.

Meanwhile, in a Statehouse news conference, Dukakis said he does not consider the nomination wrapped up and would campaign in every remaining primary state, including California. In a news conference later Wednesday in Sacramento, his California campaign director said there are no plans now to boost the $1 million or so tentatively budgeted for that state, despite the Rev. Jesse Jackson's statements that he is prepared to spend $3 million and at least three weeks in the state.

Up to 5 Campaign Trips

Richard Ybarra, the Dukakis California director, said Dukakis plans to make three to five campaign trips, totaling 10 to 12 days, before California's June 7 primary.

Dukakis' first visit, which will combine campaign appearances with fund-raising events, is set for May 13 through 15 and will include stops in the Los Angeles-Orange County area, San Diego and the Bay Area.

Staff writer Jean Merl contributed to this story from Sacramento.

DELEGATES' PRESIDENTIAL PREFERENCES Republicans 1,139 delegates needed to secure nomination Bush: 1146 Uncommitted: 202 Robertson: 31 Others: 0

Democrats 2,081 delegates needed to secure nomination Dukakis: 1268.15 Jackson: 852.10 Uncommitted: 597.75 Gore: 427.55 Simon: 184.50 Others: 0.00

Source: Associated Press

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