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Why US labor unions don't picket with PATCO

US unions are angrily denouncing President Reagan's "harsh, pumitiveactions" against airline traffic controllers. But they are limiting themselves to symbolic expressions of support and political pressures for renewed bargaining.

The reason is not disapproval of the Professional Air Controllers' Organization (PATCO) walkout. Rather the US unions are wary of what could be closely legalentanglements if they actively back the strike.

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Under federal law, the controllers' strike is illegal. Section 305 of theTaft-Hartley Act says:

"It shall be unlawful for any individual employed by the United States orany agency thereof including wholly owned government corporations to participate in anystrike. Any individual employed by the United States or by any such agency who strikesshall be discharged immediately from his employment, and shall forfeit his civil service status, if any, and shall not be eligible for reemployment for three years by the United States or any such agency."

Federal law imposes strict limits on sympathy strikes, on secondary strikesor boycotts by unions not directly involved in a labor dispute. If other unions actively back PATCO's illegal strike, they could be slapped with injunctions and lawsuitswith potentials of millions of dollars in fines or damages. None are willing to takethat chance.

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