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AFL-CIO Leader: Protect Workers From Unfair Competition

July 21, 1987

BAL HARBOUR, Fla. (AP) _ The head of the AFL-CIO called on Congress on Tuesday for relief to end corporate raiding and sudden plant closings and to protect workers competing with ″the lowest wages and worst working conditions in the world.″

″We are calling on Congress to establish a trade policy that is based on exchanging goods in America for goods made overseas, rather than on one based on exchanging American living standards for those of the Third World,″ Lane Kirkland told dockworkers gathered here for the quadrennial convention of the International Longshoremen’s Association.

″We intend to do everything in our power to reverse the damage inflicted by years of right-wing efforts to restructure the economy, downgrade the quality of worklife and wages,″ Kirkland said.

He said huge budget and trade deficits have profoundly affected manufacturing, contributing to the ″wholesale destruction″ of jobs.

″The same decline and decay is undermining every American industry, as your members see in the one-way (shipping) traffic they deal with every day,″ Kirkland said.

″If they (Reagan administration) go on doing what they’ve been doing for six years, there will be nothing left of American industry but a collection of hollow corporations, busy relabeling goods made elsewhere and trying to sell them to people without jobs or incomes.″

Despite setbacks in the 1980s, Kirkland said, the decline of the labor movement which represents 13 million workers appears to have ended and labor is adapting to the strong shift to a service-oriented economy.

″I think this is a period of great opportunity and change in the country and in the trade union movement,″ Kirkland said.

Three hundred delegates from the Great Lakes region, eastern Canada, Atlantic and Gulf coasts and Puerto Rico are attending the four-day convention ending Thursday with the election of ILA officers. Hundreds more are attending sessions as guests.

ILA president Thomas W. Gleason Sr., the nation’s oldest union president, is stepping down at 86 from the post he has held for nearly a quarter of a century.

Kirkland thanked Gleason for his contributions to the trade union movement, and praised his work as chairman of the AFL-CIO’s committee for international affairs for his consistent foreign policy stand which did not tolerate limitations on freedom or human rights.

The labor movement is still supporting Gleason’s stance, now in the form of a comprehensive trade bill that would, among other things, prevent countries guilty of violating human rights and workers rights from getting advantageous trade relations with the United States.

The trade bill also contains a provision assuring that measures would be taken against countries with unfair trade practices that export their goods in huge quantities but exclude American products from their markets.

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