PITTSBURGH -- The United Mine Workers handed union president Richard Trumka new but limited powers Wednesday to deal with the soft coal industry in 1984 bargaining, including authority to call selective strikes.
The 160,000-member union also capped the third day of its 49th constitutional convention with a ringing endorsement of Walter Mondale - the only presidential candidate invited to speak at the convention.
'Mondale, Mondale, Mondale,' the delegates shouted when Trumka asked who they wanted to endorse following a speech by the former vice president. The action gives Mondale the endorsement of virtually all major labor organizations except the Teamsters union, which backed President Reagan in 1980.
The delegates' backing for selective strikes is meant to end the miners' traditional 'no-contract, no-work' policy that has led to lengthy nationwide walkouts. Bargaining with the soft coal industry is expected to start in the spring, with the current pact expiring Sept. 30.
In a selective strike, Trumka could call out miners at a specific company while keeping workers covered by the multi-employer UMW contract on the job at other sites.
The action by voice vote on the third day of the UMW's 49th constitutional convention reversed, in part, a resounding defeat for Trumka Tuesday. The 34-year-old lawyer-miner raised both fists in a jubilant salute to the convention after the vote and thanked delegates for what he called 'spirited debate.'
However, the delegates slashed in half Trumka's bid for a 5 percent assessment on miners' wages to finance a strike benefit 'war chest,' limiting the assessment to 2.5 percent with a cap of $70 million.
It also watered down the authority he requested to enforce the union constitution without consent of the majority of the UMW governing board.
Trumka initially sought a package of powers that would have given him nearly unbridled authority over the union of 160,000 active miners. That was defeated by almost a 2-1 margin Tuesday.
On Wednesday, the delegates said the union's governing board could override Trumka with a simple majority vote on all issues except enforcement of a selective strike, when a two-thirds vote would be required. Trumka had asked for the two-thirds requirement in enforcing any part of the constitution.
The convention did give Trumka a victory in eliminating the 41-member bargaining council, which in the past had to approve tentative contract agreements before they were submitted to rank-and-file ratification. Union leaders complained that the council caused unnecessary and lengthy strikes by rejecting agreements and forcing negotiators back to the bargaining table.
The delegates also took an action that could aid Trumka's future re-election efforts by banning contributions from non-UMW sources for candidates for international union office.
The move, similar to one adopted by the Steelworkers union, was approved by voice vote after little debate, although one delegate said it would hurt dissidents within the union.