President Clinton supports legislation to ban companies from hiring permanent replacement workers during a strike, Labor Secretary Robert B. Reich told Congress on Tuesday, dismissing complaints that it would encourage strikes and give unions too much power.
With Democrats controlling Congress and the White House, backers say they have enough support to see the bill enacted.
“Let me say this clearly. He (Clinton) supports legislation that would ban permanent replacement of striking workers,” Reich told a Senate Labor subcommittee, later repeating his message to a House Education and Labor panel.
The legislation is a key goal of labor unions.
A 1938 court decision gave employers the power to hire permanent replacement workers during a strike. It has gained prominence as a tactic in the last decade.
Three business groups, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the National Assn. of Manufacturers and the National Federation of Independent Business, opposed the bill in testimony given Tuesday to a Senate Labor subcommittee.
Chamber of Commerce President Richard Lesher said there was no way to modify the bill and make it acceptable.
Lesher and NFIB President Jackson Ferris rejected a suggested alternative of barring the hiring of permanent replacements until a specified number of weeks had passed. They said that tactic would merely prolong strikes and weaken employers.
Sen. Howard M. Metzenbaum, (D-Ohio,) chairman of the Senate panel, said he planned to begin pushing the legislation toward passage April 19 when Congress returns from recess.
Rep. Pat Williams (D-Mont.), chairman of the House subcommittee, predicted that the House will pass the bill.
House Speaker Thomas S. Foley (D-Wash.), agreed, telling reporters, “We passed it last year. We’ll pass it again this year.”
The House passed a similar bill in 1991, but it died in a Senate filibuster last year.
Sen. Orrin G. Hatch (R-Utah) said the bill amounted to “a fundamental change in labor law.”