Labor Secretary Robert B. Reich on Tuesday predicted that within a few weeks, a presidential order will allow the government to stop doing business with contractors that have permanently replaced striking workers.
The proposed executive order, announced to labor leaders Monday by Vice President Al Gore, would apply to future dealings with such companies, Reich said.
"The provisions in detail are now being drawn up," he told reporters. "We expect the executive order will be issued within the next few weeks."
Reich met with the AFL-CIO's policy-making Executive Council in closed session here for about an hour. Afterward, he said President Clinton has yet to decide on some details affecting the scope of the action.
He said the decision to go ahead with such an order was made in part to assure the quality of the goods and services the federal government buys.
"We don't want, for example, the men and women of our military to rely on equipment produced by the industrial equivalent of minor-league replacement players," Reich said, referring to the major league baseball owners' decision to field replacement teams while the league team players are on strike.
"When you have replacement workers, you do not have the quality, you do not have the experience," he said. "There's absolutely no reason why the federal government, using taxpayer money, should have to stand for poor quality, low reliability."
The order would permit the secretary of labor to make a finding as to whether a contractor had permanently replaced striking workers and to instruct all federal agencies to cease dealing with that company, Reich said.
The government would also "debar" such companies from future government contracts as long as they continued using replacement labor, he said.
The order will contain "escape clauses for particular public needs" and would apply only to the 10% of contractors doing at least $100,000 of business with the government, Reich said.
Reps. Bill Goodling (R-Pa.), who chairs the House Economic and Educational Opportunities (formerly Education and Labor) Committee, and Harris W. Fawell (R-Ill.), chairman of a labor relations subcommittee, have urged Clinton not to issue such an executive order.
Prohibiting permanent replacement of striking workers has been an elusive goal for organized labor. With Clinton Administration support, such a ban has passed the House twice in recent years, then died under Republican-led filibusters in the Senate.