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Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, hinted Tuesday that he will filibuster to try to kill a bill that would prohibit employers from hiring permanent replacements for striking workers.

"There is a lot I could say about this legislation. In fact, I could probably go on for hours and hours. And I suspect the day may come when I will do just that," Hatch said at the opening of Labor and Human Resource Committee hearings.Hatch, the ranking Republican on the committee, also noted that the Bush administration has already pledged to veto the bill, and "I strongly agree with the administration's strenuous objection."

Hatch complained that not allowing employers to hire replacement workers would "alter the level playing field on which labor and management have long operated."

He added, "Just as employers' demands at the bargaining table are checked by the knowledge that their employees have the strike weapon which could ultimately put them out of business, employees' demands are checked by the knowledge that a call for a strike may be met by the hiring of . . . replacements."

Supporters of the bill say employers are increasingly hiring replacement employees as a means to break strikes without ever negotiating in good faith, so the bill is needed.

But Hatch said, "What labor unions are now seeking, however, is not protection of the right to strike. Rather, they want Congress to grant them the right to win any strike."

"If the strike relates to the commission of an unfair labor practice by the employer, such as an employer failing to bargain in good faith, current law protects striking employees by giving the National Labor Relations Board the authority to order their reinstatement, often with back pay, even if so-called permanent replacements have been hired," he said.

Hatch said he also worried that the proposed legislation would "mean an increased number of strikes, an increased risk of anti-competitive collective bargaining agreements, or both."