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Some recollections of a brief tenure.

Some recollections of brief tenure

I was the first tenant-Secretary of the new Labor Department building (except for 1 week) that previous Secretaries had dreamed of and planned. But the larger environment was not strange. I had worked for the Bureau of Labor Statistics in 1938. I had known each Secretary beginning with Frances Perkins, and I had often worked directly with them before they held office on problems of labor-management-government relations. Under President Nixon, I had been chairman of the tripartite Construction Industry Stabilization Committee, and director of the Cost of Living Council, attending Cabinet meetings and serving as a member of the Economic Policy group which met daily at the White House and on a weekly basis with the President. I had also been chastened by congressional committees and the press. Shortly after President Ford took office, he asked me to recommend a labor-management advisory committee which he announced on September 28, 1974, at the end of the Conference on Inflation; I served as coordinator of the committee(1) through my tenure as Secretary of Labor(2).

(1) The Conference on Inflation, held at the request of President Gerald R. Ford and the Congress of the United States, Washington, DC, Sept. 27-28, 1974, pp. 291-92.

(2) Subsequently, labor and management members decided to continue their joint meetings as a private group and asked me to continue to serve as coordinator. The labor-management group continues to the present. See John T. Dunlop, Dispute Resolution, Negotiation and Consensus Building (Dover, MA, Auburn House Publishing Co., 1984), pp. 252-66.

When President Ford invited me to be Secretary, I asked him what the job was as he was it, and what he wanted done in the post. He responded that he had two particular concerns: (1) he wanted to improve communications between the labor movement and himself and his administration, and (2) he recognized that the economy was entering a serious recession, and he wanted the best advice and judgment of labor and management as to how to deal with the situation. At its December 1974 meeting, the Labor-Management Advisory Committee had unanimously recommended a precise form and distribution of a tax cut that was later accepted by the President and the Congress.(3) In the swearing-in ceremony of March 18, 1975, President Ford said, "The labor-management committee he chairs told us that what we most need is a tax cut even before I asked for a tax cut in my State of the Union Message in January."(4)

(3) On Jan. 10, 1975, the White House released the recommendations of the Committee. This was the first time organized labor had supported an investment tax credit.

(4) Weekly Compilation of Presidential Documents, Mar. 24, 1975, pp. 281-82.

My response to the President at the swearing-in ceremony formulated major elements of a philosophy of the assignment publicly undertaken. The major themes were the need for a strong collective bargaining system with labor and management working together with government, the limitations of regulation, and the short-term concern to get the economy moving and the related long-term need for attention to structural problems. A few paragraphs express the spirit and philosophy:

The group here this afternoon, Mr. President, is symbolic of the diversity of our country -- labor and management, academics and practitioners, old hands and young specialists, both sides of the legislative aisle, and active minority groups -- and no one can neglect the historical tensions of geography.

Mr. President, we are a 'can-do' people. Again, as you said..., Mr President, 'Our people cannot live on islands of self-interest. We must build bridges and communicate our agreements as well as our disagreements. Only then can we honestly solve the Nation'sd problems.'

A corollary of that theme is that a great deal of government needs to be devoted to improving understanding, persuasion, accommodation, mutual problem solving, and informal mediation...I have a sense that in many areas the growth of regulations and law has outstripped our capacity to develop consensus and mutual accommodation to our common detriment. . . .

It is hope that business, labor and government, working together, can address the immediate problems of the Nation while having a deep appreciation of our longer run necessities and opportunities, not only for the economy as a whole but in individual sectors and industry and regions as well.

I believe it is appropriate to comment briefly on what appear to me to have been some of the major activities of the period.(5)

(5) Also see Abraham J. Siegel and David B. Lipsky, eds., Unfinished Business: An Agenda for Labor, Management and the Public (Cambridge, MA, The MIT Press, 1978), pp. 29-36.

1. In recent decades, the regulatory responsibilities of the Labor Department had increased rapidly, exposing quite a different posture to management, labor, and the public, and creating a different internal spirit from its traditional role as compiler of data, prepare of reports, stimulator of training, and convener of labor and management representatives. In 1940, the Department administered 18 regulatory programs; by 1960, the number had expanded to 40; in 1975, the number stood at 134, including recent complex program such as Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 and the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970. Even manpower program, which accounted for the large bulk of the appropriations, were significantly and excessively regulatory in their approach. I prepared a paper. "The Limits of Legal Compulsion,"(6) presented at the visit to each of the Department's regional offices expressing concern with the "limitations on bringing about social change through legal compulsion." The paper closed with the following:

(6) John T. Dunlop, "The Limits of Legal Compulsion," Labor Law Journal, February 1976, pp. 67-74.

The development of new attitudes on the part of public employees and new relationships and procedures with those who are required to live under regulations is a central challenge of democratic society. Trust cannot grow in an atmosphere dominated by bureaucratic fiat and litigious controversy; it emerges through persuasion, mutual accommodation, and problem solving.

To effectuate this approach, I took the lead in developing labor standards under Section 13(c) of the Urban Mass Transportation Act and convened labor and management representatives to seek agreement on standards to be written into the Federal Register for comments and for subsequent formal issuance. I also became directly involved in seeking to meditate the complex Coke Oven standard under OSHA. I generally advocated "negotiated rulemaking" where appropriate and feasible.(7)

(7) For a discussion of the historical background to negotiated rulemaking, see Henry H. Perritt, Jr., "Analysis of Four Negotiated Rulemaking Efforts for the Administrative Conference of the United States," Nov. 15, 1985; "Negotiated Rulemaking Before Federal Agencies: Evaluation of Recommendations by the Administrative Conference of the United States," The Georgetown Law Journal, August 1986, pp. 1627-1717; and Administrative Conference of the United States, Sourcebook: Federal Agency Use of Alternative Means of Dispute Resolution (Washington, 1987).

It is a source of considerable satisfaction that negotiated rulemaking has come to be recognized as an appropriate means of establishing regulations supported by the Administrative Conference of the United States, and its use is growing within the Environmental protection Agency, the Occupational safety and Health Administration, and other Federal agencies. It needs to be made clear that negotiated rulemaking, when properly applied, does not constitute a diminution of government responsibility, nor does it represent the privatization of public functions. But such means may operate faster, reduce subsequent litigation, engender better compliance, and better serve both private parties and the public weal. Would that the labor Departmet made greater use of these means.

The current Regulatory Management developed by the White House and centered in the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) by Executive Orders 12291 and 12498 raises serious questions for me as to the centralization of such authority.(8) No White House or OMB staff is ever going to know as much about a subject or have as direct an understanding of the affected parties as the Secretary. In 1984 and 1985, OMB made changes in 48.6 and 26.3 percent of all labor Department proposed rules.(9) Concerns of the White House and OMB are appropriate, and consultation and raising serious issues to higher levels have always been appropriate, of course, but for me such centralization is obnoxious to constructive industrial relations, efficient labor markets, and participatory labor-management-government relations.

(8) See Presidential Management of Rulemaking in Regulatory Agencies (Washington, National Academy of Public Administration, 1987).

(9) Ibid., table 3, p. 14.

2. From the outset, I was interested in a greater degree of procedural cooperation and professional reinforcement among the labor relations agencies with private parties; the objective did not focus on substantive decisions. Accordingly, I met periodically with the heads of the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service, the National Mediation Board, and the National Labor Relations Board. There are a number of things that a Secretary can do informally for these agencies with respect to budgets, staffing, access, and with respect to appointments. Moreover, officals of these agencies have a perspective on labor and management and their interactions that is of considerable interest to a Secretary. These agencies help to shape the labor-management climate of an era and the consequence quality of economic performance that has to be a priority of any President. The labor-management arena as a whole must be the concern of the Secretary of Labor.

"No White House staff is ever going to know as much as the Secretary..."

3. The President's Labor-Management Advisory committee was given a broad charter to advise and make recommendations to the President. The Committee met regularly, with the President usually in attendance; the Secretary of the Treasury and other economic officials also attended. Teh Committee also concerned itself with national energy policy, housing, financing public utilities, unemployment, and labor-management committees in private sectors. At each session with the President, the Committee also provided its individual and group views of the; economic outlook, often more immediate than permitted by government data.

The Committee provided a significant opportunity for direct communications between the President and his administration and the labor-management community. Both groups interacted with each other. Other business groups were consulted separately.

4. A significant illusion of the interactions among industrial relations developments, economic policy, and foreign affairs is afforded by the U.S.-U.S.S.R. grain agreement of 1975.(10) The possibility of a longshore strike communicated in advance to the Secretary alerted the administration to serious problems, including the consequences of further significant Soviet purchases for domestic grain and meat prices, shipping usage, and to the potentials of significant agricultural and foreign policy opportunities. A Cabinet-level group was enabled to follow developments, advise the President, and secure his approval to negotiate a 5-year agreement, assist farmers, and resolve the longshore stoppage.

(10) For a detailed internal account, see, Roger B. Porter, The U.S.-U.S.S.R. Grain Agreement (New York, Cambridge University Press, 1984).

The centrality of industrial relations and their complex interweaving with other vital issues of the Nation are well-illustrated by these events in which the Labor Department had a major role.

5. The international labor-management arena has long been a concern of the Labor Department, including representation in the International Labor Organization (ILO), the only United Nations agency in which both labor and management are directly represented. Prior to 1975, the United States had a growing series of difficulties with the International Labor Organization that were related to the selection of top associates of the Director General and the representation of the Soviets among the labor and management members of the Governing Body. Other difficulties included budgetary levels and allocations among countries, the uneven treatment of reports on violations of human rights and conventions made by committees of experts, and the use of the annual conference as a political forum for attacks on Israel and U.S. policy. IN close consultation with labor and management, and with the full collaboration of Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, a letter of notice of intent to withdraw 2 years hence was approved by the President and sent on November 5, 1975.

"The labor-management arena must be the concern of the Secretary of Labor...."

In order to improve governmental policymaking on ILO matters and to enhance participation of management organizations and labor, a Cabinet-level committee was established involving the Secretaries of State, Commerce, and Labor, and later the National Secretary Advisory Committee, with labor and management members to be regular attendants. This committee remains in operation.

Subsequent events and negotiations helped to create desirable changes in ILO structure and policies, and I was particularly pleased that, in 1977, President carter assured the combined membership of the United States. I have had close ties to the ILO over the years, having spent the year 1957-58 at the ILO -- but not on its payroll -- at the invitation of David Morse, then the Director General, writing my Industrial Relocations Systems.

6. Brief reference should be made to a few other efforts in the 1975-76 period. I experimented to develop new approaches to the congressional oversight function, both by regular visits with key committee members and a comprehensive presentation on manpower and training, rather than awaiting specialized hearings on politically sensitive issues or administrative problems. Seldom do congressional committees get a comprehensive view of a topic developed by a Cabinet officer.(11) I organized a weekly seminar on future or underlying questions for the press and media before a regular press conference and passed out diplomas at the end of my tenure. A special staff unit assisted in my participation in the general economic policy-making of the administration.

(11) "Comprehensive Employment and Training Act -- Review and Oversight," Dec. 5, 1975.

It would probably be inappropriate not to include some comment on the situs picketing legislation, the more so because a view in some circles has developed that I privately lobbied the President and obtained his promise to support the legislation if enacted.(12) Good staff work at the White House, it has been said, would have prevented the subsequent problem for the President.

(12) See Frederic V. Malek, Washington's Hidden Tragedy: The Failure to Make Government Work (New York, The Free Press, 1978), p. 26. Richard Cheney on TV, January 1986, referred to the decision of the President to support situs picketing as "Oh By-the-Way Decisions."

The reality is that at the earlier meetings with the President on the topic, he stated he wished to support the legislation; he said he had become familiar with the issue after 25 years in the House. I insisted that any political arrangement for support in the 1976 elections be directly arranged withe labor representatives, particularly those in the building trades. At meetings on the topic on May 21 and June 4, 1975, with the President, OMB Director James Lynn and senior White House aids, including Donald Rumsfeld, William Seidman, or Richard Cheney, were present. The President met with President Robert Georgine of the AFL-CIO Building trades Department on April 22 and July 8, 1975; on the latter date, the President announced this intention to run in 1976. My approval testimony on June 5, 1975, followed, but with more restraint, the testimony of Secretary Shultz on the same subject in 1969. The draft legislation was significantly modified from June through November and was made more responsive to the concerns of contractors; new machinery for all labor management disputes in the industry was added in Title II with the agreement of virtually all parties to collective bargaining in the industry.

The reality, then as now, seems quite clear. President Ford was anxious in his quest for election to secure the endorsement of a number of unions, particularly the building trades, as President Nixon had done in 1972. He sought the invitation in San Francisco in September. But the policies of the Republican Party changed from May and June to December when the situs picketing bill sat on the President's desk. President Ford was concerned that if he signed the bill into law, Ronald Reagan would use it to defeat him in the Republican primaries and caucuses. On December 11, 1975, he told me (with Richard Cheney present) that it was a good bill, and that I had done what he had asked, but he would have to veto it because otherwise he would be defeated in his quest for his party's nomination as he explained the policies of various States.(13)

(13) See Jonathan A. Kantar, "The Ford Administration and the 1975 Common Situs Picketing Issue" (Ph.D. diss., University of Michigan, 1985).

I responded that I respected his decision, but it would not be the first time in U.S. politics that positions taken to secure nomination precluded subsequent election success. As I stated following my letter of resignation of January 13, 1976, his veto destroyed my capacity to perform the duties the President had invited me to do. I retain a high regard for President Ford.

PHOTO: John T. Dunlop
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Title Annotation:Reflections of Eight Former Secretaries
Author:Dunlop, John T.
Publication:Monthly Labor Review
Date:Feb 1, 1988
Previous Article:A benchmark of progress: 1973-75.
Next Article:Government's role in promoting labor-management cooperation.

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