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Labor Leader Calls on Unions To Alter 'Hostile' Negotiating

By Steven M. Arkow

Criticizing labor's traditionally "hostile approach" to relations with management, a leading union organizer in the communications industry last night called for an increased role for collective bargaining in all contract negotiations during a speech at the Kennedy School of Government.

Glenn E. Watts, president of the Communications Workers of America (CWA), which represents more than 625.000 employees of the American Telephone and Telegraph system (ATT), told a crowd of 50 people that "increased cooperation and consensus between employers and employees based upon the mutual benefits best serves the concept of democracy in the workplace."

An organizer of employees in the telecommunications and electronics industry since the 1940s. Watts praised the ongoing dialogue between workers and management, which invites employee contributions to decisions affecting their work routines.

He urged businesses to form small employee groups to encourage workers to participate in company policymaking.

"These workshops help alleviate job pressures, improve productivity, and build consensus and credibility." Watts said.

Watts said such groups would not undermine the power of large labor unions, as some union leaders have claimed.

Referring to the contract CWA negotiated for ATT employees last August, Watts said. "Fostering cooperative employer-employee relations as practiced in West Germany and Japan is becoming more important to workers than specific gains in wages, pensions plans, or other job benefits."

However, Watts conceded that the labor movement in the United States is "not yet fully accepted and faces growing pressure from the conservative policies of the Reagan administration.

"How can the conservative business interests in our nation champion the Polish Solidarity labor movement while resisting union demands here?" Watts asked.

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