Obama Labor Board Brings Back Pushbutton Strike Scheme

In 1993 and 1994, then-AFL-CIO President Lane Kirkland (left) and President Bill Clinton (center) tried and tried to ram the Pushbutton Strike Bill through the U.S. Congress. Because of intense public opposition, largely mobilized by the National Right to Work Committee, they ultimately failed. But President Barack Obama’s National Labor Relations Board is now attempting by bureaucratic fiat to transform union bosses’ two-decade-old defeat into a victory. Image: AP Photo/Dennis Cook

From 1991 until 1994, the U.S. House and Senate repeatedly voted on so-called “striker replacement” legislation, introduced in Congress’s upper chamber by Big Labor Sens. Ted Kennedy (D-Mass.) and Howard Metzenbaum (D-Ohio).  (Both of these politicians have since passed away.)

The Kennedy-Metzenbaum scheme was designed to force employers to punish or fire workers who defy union-boss orders to participate in an economic strike. Enactment of this bill would have greatly expanded the union hierarchy’s power to force workers to pay union dues as a job condition.

The “Striker Replacement” Bill, known by opponents as the Pushbutton Strike Bill, was originally rubber-stamped by the House, 247-182, in July 1991. However, in June 1992, Right to Work supporters in the Senate resisted two cloture motions filed by Majority Leader George Mitchell (D-Maine and stopped the legislation with a filibuster.

Shortly after Bill Clinton, who vowed to sign the Pushbutton Strike Bill if it reached his desk, became President in 1993, the House once again passed the bill, albeit by a slightly narrower, 239-190 margin. But the bill again succumbed to a Right to Work Senate filibuster in July 1994. This time Mitchell was only able to muster 53 votes for two cloture motions.

A 1992 Time/CNN poll and a 1993 poll by the Marketing Research Institute both showed that a two-to-one majority of Americans opposed the strike bill.

Big Labor propagandists claimed these polls were wrong. But in the 1992 and 1994 elections, Americans, many of them mobilized by the National Right to Work Committee, punished dozens of politicians who had backed Kennedy-Metzenbaum. A total of 40 House and Senate members who had voted with the union bosses were defeated when they sought reelection in 1992 and 1994. The voter backlash against the strike bill and other Clinton Administration policies was so powerful that, when the new Congress convened in 1995, elected officials who had publicly pledged to support to Work stood at the helm of both the House and the Senate.

This was a bitter defeat for Big Labor, but union officials have obviously never considered it to be final. And just last week, Chairman Mark Pearce and one other radical Obama-appointed member of the National Labor Relations Board banded together to find that, contrary to multiple NLRB and court precedents, employers facing a labor stoppage commit an “unfair labor practice” whenever they offer permanent jobs to nonstriking workers if they are at least partly motivated by a desire to prevent future strikes. (See the news story linked below for more information.)

If the Obama NLRB’s May 31 decision in American Baptist Homes of the West stands, it will gut nearly 80 years of federal court precedents holding that during an economic strike employers may licitly offer permanent employment to workers who want it except if the employer has an “unlawful purpose” that has nothing to with the strike itself or with avoiding future strikes.

The ultimate harmful results could include large increases in the number of workers who are subject to union monopoly bargaining and forced to pay union dues as a condition of employment, since those are two objectives Big Labor frequently seeks during economic strikes.

Labor board limits employers’ ability to replace striking workers