WASHINGTON (FNS) -- Spokesmen for trade associations representing the supermarket industry assailed President Clinton's order to prohibit the use of permanent replacement workers by federal contractors.
The executive order would not directly affect the industry, but it is seen by some as encroaching on the current law and a first step toward deciding whether private employers can hire workers to replace employees on strike. But organized labor, which has failed several times to get a striker replacement bill out of Congress, welcomes the move. The House most recently passed a version in June 1993, and last summer the Senate failed to break a Republican-led filibuster on the measure.
Said James Parks, AFL-CIO spokesman: "We'd be happy for anything the president can do." The AFL-CIO's Park said he does not know how many companies or workers would be affected, but he said the threat of replacement workers has had a chilling effect on strikes. "Employees have been forced to take contracts they didn't want."
John R. Block, president of the National-American Wholesale Grocers' Association, Falls Church, Va., called the administration's move a "sneaky attempt to bypass the will of Congress by creating policy without first obtaining the approval of the Senate and the House.
"This is a clear sign that, rather than moving toward the center following the elections, President Clinton has even more fully embraced the agenda of organized labor. This action, coupled with the administration's push for a higher minimum wage, indicates that the business community still has much to fear from the White House during the next two years."
Tom Wenning, senior vice president and general counsel of the National Grocers Association, Reston, Va., said the administration's action is "improper."
"It's a back-door approach to enacting legislation the administration was unable to pass last year. This is the wrong approach."
Wenning said the action would affect nonunionized as well as unionized shops, because it could apply to locations where workers are striking as part of an organizational campaign.
"Our concern is just as strong over the principle of the matter. It's clear the administration is trying to promote an agenda that didn't make it as legislation. This may be incremental. We could see other means to expand this."
George Green, assistant general counsel and vice president of the Food Marketing Institute, Washington, called the president's move an "outrage" and questioned the legality of it. "We need to take a serious look at the Department of Labor's budget to ensure they don't have any extra money to spend to enforce something like this." The action also has drawn ire on Capitol Hill. Sen. Nancy Kassebaum, R-Kan., chairwoman of the Senate Labor and Human Resources Committee, and Senate Majority Leader Robert Dole, R-Kan., wrote Clinton a letter Feb. 22 asking him not to "attempt an end-run around the legislative process. Last year, Congress rejected the so-called striker replacement bill. "It would be inappropriate to revive this defeated legislation through an executive order," they wrote.