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A Strike Against the Replacement Ban

The premise in the editorial "Strikers' Rights in US," May 11, which advocates protection for strikers, is wrong. The author states, "In recent years, the practice of permanently firing strikers has been on the increase." First, it is illegal to fire strikers. Being "permanently replaced" is not the same as being fired; replaced strikers have first-in-line rehire rights. According to a General Accounting Office study, only 17 percent of strikes result in use of replacements. Also, settlements often inclu de agreements to rehire strikers.

Second, the author incorrectly suggested that use of replacements has increased. Despite the high profile of a few striker replacement cases in the 1980s, the decade was notable for a low number of cases relative to the average since the 1930s. In fact, a recent Employment Policy Foundation study should drive a nail through this myth.

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The study found 229 labor board cases between 1938 and 1980 where employers invoked their right to permanently replace striking workers. Every decade since the Mackay Radio Supreme Court decision (1938), which affirmed the right to use permanent replacements, saw four to five cases of permanent replacements used annually. In the 1980s, the average number was only three to four annually.

Proponents of the bill argue that the striker replacement ban could "level the playing field" between management and labor. By incorrectly demonizing labor-management relations through the 1980s, the media carries the heavy load proponents of striker replacement cannot. Accuracy is critical to this debate. Bradley Cameron, Washington Employment Policy Foundation

Letters are welcome. Only a selection can be published, subject to condensation, and none acknowledged. Please fax letters to (617) 450-2317 or address them to "Readers Write," One Norway St., Boston, MA 02115.

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