WASHINGTON (FNS) -- The grocery industry is claiming victory in a recent federal court of appeals decision to overturn a presidential executive order on the permanent replacement of striking workers.
The Feb. 2 ruling of the District of Columbia Court of Appeals will "allow employers to continue the practices they have followed for 60 years," said Kevin Burke, vice president of government relations for the National-American Wholesale Grocers' Association, Falls Church, Va. "This proves unions have a right to strike and employers have a right to hire replacements."
NAWGA had joined a coalition of associations in grocery and other industries in the lawsuit protesting President Clinton's decision to prohibit employers who have federal contracts larger than $100,000 from hiring replacements. While the executive order does not apply specifically to the grocery industry, it was viewed symbolically by the industry as a victory for organized labor and a portent of things to come.
Republican lawmakers had attached a provision to the Labor, Health and Human Services appropriations bill that would overturn the president's order. Democrats objected so strongly to that move that they filibustered the appropriations bill and it was never brought to a vote in the Senate. Burke said that with the court's ruling, the industry would consider supporting the removal of the provision from the appropriations bill.
Tom Wenning, senior vice president and general counsel of the National Grocers Association, Reston, Va., said he opposed eliminating the provision in the appropriations bill that would ban implementation of the order for fear that the administration will appeal the court's ruling. "It should stay in the bill until the president says striker replacement is no longer an issue," Wenning said.
Harry Sullivan, senior vice president and general counsel for the Food Marketing Institute here, said he also favored keeping the appropriations bill provision, adding, "President Clinton upset the delicate balance achieved between labor and management."
Organized labor decried the ruling as "simply wrong." In a statement, AFL-CIO President John J. Sweeney said, "This ruling serves those employers who want to wage war on workers, and hurts the rest of us, working families, communities, fair employers, our nation."