Mar 25, 2010

Permanent Replacement Workers: A Primer

With yesterday's announcement that Shaw's Supermarkets has begun hiring permanent replacements for about 300 UFCW members on strike at its Methuen distribution center, now seems like an appropriate time to take a look at what this really means.

The basics:
  • The difference between hiring temporary replacement workers and permanent replacement workers is that permanent replacement workers get to keep the union jobs even after a strike ends.
  • The Supreme Court ruled that hiring permanent replacement workers was legal in the 1938 NLRB v. Mackay Radio & Telegraph Co case.
  • For more than 40 years after the Mackay decision, no major U.S. industry hired permanent replacements during a labor strike.

Past use of permanent replacement workers:

  • In 1981, President Ronald Reagan fired more than 12,000 unionized air traffic controllers who had gone out on strike after unsuccessful contract negotiations. President Reagan claimed that because the air traffic controllers were government employees, their strike was illegal. The FAA hired permanent replacement workers, and President Reagan banned the fired workers from ever being rehired by the FAA - a prohibition that stood until President Bill Clinton overturned it in 1993.
  • In 1987, the International Paper Company in Maine hired more than a thousand replacement workers, and kept them employed even after the 2,300 striking workers ended their 16-month long strike.
  • In 1990, Greyhound replaced 6,300 bus drivers who had gone on strike after their contract expired.
  • In 1994, about 1,250 workers at Bridgestone/Firestone embarked on a 10 month-long strike; by the time the strike had ended and a new contract had been reached, it was 1996, and the company had hired at least 900 permanent replacement workers.

What's different with Shaw's?

  • Unlike the 1981 air traffic controllers strike, the legality of the Methuen strike is not at issue.
  • The number of workers on strike at the Methuen distribution center seems relatively small compared to past conflicts that have triggered the use of permanent replacement workers.
  • Shaw's workers have only been out on strike for a few weeks.

1 comment:

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