FOR many years we served as representatives of the federal
government in various capacities with the National Labor Relations
Board (NLRB). We were appointed board members under both Republican
and Democratic administrations. Together we represent more than 100
years of experience in labor-management relations.
While we did not always agree on the outcome of cases brought
before the NLRB - member Jenkins's decisions were more often
pro-union and member Penello's dissents were more often
pro-employer - we agree that the Strike Bill would destroy the core
principle of balance in collective bargaining.
The Strike Bill, which has passed the House and is expected to
be voted on today by the Senate, would prohibit employers from
defending their businesses by offering permanent jobs to
replacement workers during a strike over economic issues such as
pay raises and benefits.
Proponents of the Strike Bill claim that employers' use of
permanent replacement workers during an economic strike is a recent
phenomenon. This simply is not true. The National Labor Relations
Act, enacted in 1935, provided a delicate balance that allows
unions to strike over wage demands and allows employers to defend
their businesses by hiring permanent replacement workers.
The striker-replacement legislation would destroy this core
principle of United States labor law, which has been consistently
supported by Democratic and Republican presidents and federal
courts for over half a century.
In our experience, the balance of power inherent in these
countervailing economic weapons is what has made the system work.
Take away either the right to strike or the right to operate with
permanent replacements, and the other party will be sure to
overreach. We fear the striker replacement legislation will
encourage confrontation and "risk-free" strikes, where economic
strikers could make unreasonable demands and shut down employers
with no risk of their own.
Some contend that the system is not balanced, that permanent
replacement of economic strikers is the equivalent of being fired.
Again, this isn't true. Even so-called "permanently replaced"
strikers have continuing rights to reinstatement to all available
future jobs. The NLRB developed adequate safeguards for economic
strikes, one of which puts employers under an affirmative
continuing obligation to first offer jobs to unreinstated economic
strikers on a preferential basis before hiring new employees.
Furthermore, the actual number of workers replaced is minute. A
Bureau of National Affairs study found nearly 40,000 economic
strikers were replaced in 1991-1992, out of a US labor force of 125