WASHINGTON (May. 5)
Talks between the State Department and leaders of the American Federation of Labor-Congress of Industrial Organizations were iniated today concerning the picketing of the Egyptian ship Cleopatra by maritime workers at the New York harbor in retaliation of the Arab boycott of American ships touching Israeli ports.
Following yesterday’s decision of the AFL-CIO executive council to back the picketing of the Egyptian vessel, top leaders of the powerful central American trade union body, made known here today they wanted firm assurances from the State Department that Arab boycott tactics affecting American seamen will be abandoned by the Arab states before calling off the picketing of the Cleopatra.
The AFL-CIO leaders, who designated President George Meany as chief negotiator with the State Department, emphasized that they are concerned solely with the economic interests of American seamen who work on American ships blacklisted by the Arab countries. These seamen suffer from the Arab boycott, the union leaders emphasized. They charged the State Department with obscuring the issue by blaming friends of Israel as instigating the picketing of the Egyptian ship in the New York docks.
The top union leaders disclosed that the State Department was drafting a statement of Administration policy that would satisfy the AFL-CIO leadership. It was understood that high State Department officials indicated willingness to issue a statement promising an investigation into the complaints raised by the Seafarers’ International Union and other maritime trade unions and pledging assurance that the rights of the seamen would be safeguarded.
A statement to this effect was drafted yesterday, but the AFL-CIO leaders found it did not provide sufficiently clear-out guarantees to warrant an end of the picketing. Union leaders have made it clear that the picketing of the Cleopatra was started only after repeated complaints to the State Department by maritime unions against the Arab boycott of American ships manned by American seaman had been ignored.
U.S. OIL AND SHIPPING COMPANIES SEEK PRO-ARAB ACTION ON PICKETING
Assistant Secretary of State William B. Macomber said today that the Arab boycott and blockade practices “are an outgrowth of the Palestine problem, which continues to perpetuate unfortunate circumstances such as those whereby nearly one million Arab refugees are not able to return to their homes.”
Mr. Macomber expressed himself on behalf of Acting Secretary of State Douglas Dillon in a letter to Rep. Seymour Halpern, New York Republican, explaining the Department’s position on the picketing of the Cleopatra. The State Department communication said the Cleopatra case had a negative impact “on our relations with a number of friendly countries.”
A number of U.S. oil and shipping companies today jointly urged Federal legislation to protect Arab shipping in American ports and called for an end to the “harassment” of the Cleopatra in New York harbor. In a communication to chairman J. W. Fulbright of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, the companies expressed fear of Arab reprisals against American business interests. A request was made for hearings on new legislation to protect Arab ships from “acts of private persons” in the United States.
The companies also attacked American labor unions, alleging that “commerce of foreign-flag vessels in U.S. ports may now be conducted only at the sufferance of American seamen’s and longshoremen’s unions.” The membership of the group that petitioned Sen. Fulbright included the Alcoa Steamship Co., American Oil Co., American Trading and Production Co., Atlantic Refining Co., Bernuth, Lembercke Co., Charles Kurz and Co., Cities Service Co., Gotaas-Larsen, Inc.
Also the Gulf Oil Corp., Marine Transport Lines, Naess Shipping Co., National Bulk Carriers, Inc., Richfield Oil Co., Sinclair Refining Corp., Socony Mobil Oil Co., Standard Oil Co. of New Jersey, Standard Oil Co. of California, Texaco, Inc., Tidewater Oil Co., and United Fruit Company.
(From Haifa, it was reported that the American tourist ship, the S.S. Brazil, due at Haifa Sunday, will not make the stop. The ship, carrying 270 tourists, had been scheduled also to visit Egypt but that visit was canceled after the UAR imposed a boycott on U.S. shipping.)