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Sun Interview, Part 2

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(KJiror's Note: Leonani Woodcock, the President of the l'j-niillion member United Auto Workers, succëeded the legendary Walter I'. Reuther in tlus positkm in 970 witli somc 35 ycars oj union vrganizing experience already t lus credit. Since ilidi time, Woodcock has emerged as a potent Jbrce in the inner couneils of the Democratie Party ftr. a 1976 electiva platform which woukl offer decidedly prögressive social reform programs in a number of areas including national Iwalth insurancc, f il II employment, national economie planning, tax ;■ reform, and a guaranteed national income. In rhis conduding segment of the SUN 's exclusive in-deptli interview with Woodcock, the VA IV leader details somc of the aspects of this platform; talks about the unions and the corporal ons for which their members work; and finally, offers his long-range projections for systematic economie and politieal changó in the U.S.) SUN: Mayor Yoimg has said that the central issue in the 1976 elections must bc the urban crisis, the economie impoverishment of the cilies and the deepening división betweeu the predoniinantly black eitjes and the predominautly white suburbs. How woukl you propose to address that issue, and to arrest the continuing decay of cities like our own? WOODCOCK: I view that as part and parcel of the goal of full employment. And I would put, as a major item under that, the passage of the counter-cyclical bill, which would give federal aid to municipalities at given levéis of unemployment. 1 think witli sensible planning the cities can be redeemed, and I think that increasingly, people in the suburbs are gonna realie that you can't have a completely decayed core and a healthy perimeter. U's just crazy. The most viable community on the North American continent is Toronto, which handles so well the relationship of its city with its suburbs. Of course, they have the happy advantage of a legislature wliich can say, "Okay, you're going to have regional government, and do it in a sensible planned fashion." The blacks in Detroit say, "You're trying to take away the new power we've just gotten." The essentially white suburbs are saying, "You're trying to deport Detroit's problems to us." That's why 1 think, in my own point of view, that money coming from the federal government has to have strings attached. Then, we've also got to avoid the absolute nonsense of giving aid to Houston, when they have a S14 million surplus, and when they just had a choice between two mayoral candidates, both of whom were on platforms of spending as little as possible-"Even if," as one of them said, "the streets are full of potlioles." SUN: llow can we srímukte business and industry t retuni tú the cides, and persuade new business and industry to locale lluro? WOODCOCK: I think we need a sensible land use policy which ties in environmemal problems. Any sizeable enterprise, on its own, couldn't come back to Detroit, because theie's not enough land; it's all scattered around in bits and pieces. When Romney was in HUD, we liad some conversations I with hini about taking the city and saying, "Okay, this will be a residential área, this will be liglit mdustry. and so on-rjeginning eonseiousiy 10 trade off pareéis, so you get usable pareéis. You know, with the enorníous HUB holdings here, ii's alniost a natural for that, but we're tiot doing it. In the Detroit 1 first knew, you lived as niueh as you eould within walking distance of your work or, al the most. a relatively short streetear ride. I think that soit of thing eould still come back, and I think that gbes to the question of energy eonservation It takes conscious planning, and one city alone can't do it. The only plaee trom which that kind of planning can emanate is the one part of the government-the federal government-that has the access to the wherewithal to get it done. I think the planning of what you want and how it is to be done has to be local. I don't mean somebody sits in a central bureaucracy and says, "Okay, you're going to do this." But it obviously includes HUD, to be a part of taking the properties they own and turning them over, and it takes the govemment's involvement as far as capital expenditures are concerned. lf we were sensible, we'd piek some city as a pilot project- "Can it be done'", instead of saying. "Okay, we'll give each city a little bit so that nobody does anything." At mie time we were talkine about building new towns within the city. 1 think lliat's slill a viable concept. The tact that we've done il all wrong doesn't mean that we shouldn't have tried to do it. Instead of saying, "Well, it doesn't woik. Let's get the government off our backs and out of the whole thing," we've just got lo find a beller way to do what we oiïginally set out to do. SUN: Should federal public service jobs bc a pari of a Juli employtncnt polier.' WOODCOCK: That's an essential part of it, because to the degree the private sector can't provide the necessary jobs. then the government, as the employer ot last resqrt, has to. And I certainly don t mean the Arthur Burns concept, where he says, "Uneniployment insurance for no more than fïfteen weeks, and then you go to work for the government at a salary substantially below the minimum wage"-which is sort of like the Ëlizabethan workhouse concept. We liave neglected the public sector more in this country than in any country I know. And it's not making work; it's work that's aching to be done. The more productive we make the country, the more we'll be operating in a counler-inflationary way. Also, with regard to full employnient, someday we are going to wake up consciously to the fact that we use twice as much energy as the developed European countries. We used to say, "Well, that's because theyïe not as rich as we are." Well, Sweden's richer than we are. Switzerland's richer than we are. They're using half our energy, in terms of per capita GNP usage. We've just gotta think about the job of conserving, and we're not going to do it simply by enlarging the supply. And one big piece of conservation, I think, would bc -more labor-intensive jobs and less and energy -intensive jobs. I think we need a conscious effort to utilize more people and less energy. SUN: For examplc? WOODCOCK. We should quit pushing in the automobile plants for ever more automation. which I think, to some degree, has readied the poini of diminishing returns, and rely muro on manual efforts. I don't mean going back to hand-tooling a car, but a conscious use of less energy. Every tirïie 1 go into a motel room. 1 have to use a plastic cup. Thcy obviously üse them because it's cheaper, I'd much sooner use a glass. First of all. that plastic cup has got petrochemicals in il, and we throw 'cm away by the millions overy day. And somebody has to wash that glass. but nobody washes thai plastic cup. That's the soit of thing. Il would be an easy conversión. This has to be a combina t ion - we just can'l rely simply on the market and the profil philosophy to accomplish these things. SUN: As one mcans of redïsttibution afincóme, would yon favor a guaran teed natioii■il incorrtff, a negative income tax for poor people? WOODCOCK: Very definitely. One of the things I found most disappointing, in the last few years, was when Moynihan temporaiily convinced Nixon on the Family Assistance Plan. We got that through the House of Representatives twice. Then the liberáis got all hung up- "The numbers are too low." I tried to say, "Look, if we can establish coniiiuuJ i 'i page 26 "All the charges are generally true ...lts not a (ree system. But we do stillhave the ability of maneuvering. even in the economie spherer