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HATCH ASSAILS STRIKE BILL, SAYS EMPLOYERS SHOULD FIGHT BACK

Berating Democratic-sponsored striker legislation and calling organized labor a self-interested special interest group, Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, said Tuesday it's time for employers to fight back.

Speaking at a National Federation of Independent Businesses conference, Hatch passionately told an audience of small-business owners that current pro-union legislation proposed by Sen. Edward Kennedy, D-Mass., and Sen. Howard Metzenbaum, D-Ohio, is merely a subversive effort by union leaders to build up their declining power.He said the bill, which is co-sponsored by 207 members of the House of Representatives, would upset the delicate balance between employer and employee, leaving the employee with an unfair advantage.

"Under current law, employees have the right to strike - the ultimate collective bargaining weapon that unions can bring to bear on an employer's business," he said. "What unions are now seeking legislatively is not protection of the right to strike, but the right to win any strike."

The bill, which is expected to pass in the House sometime this summer, would make it illegal for any employer to offer a permanent job to any replacement worker hired during a strike. Also, any employee who was promoted during a strike would lose that promotion to a striking employee who returns to work.

"Proponents will try to tell you that you can survive a strike by using temporary workers. Is that a realistic option in most circumstances? Hardly," Hatch said.

"What persons, especially skilled workers, would be willing to leave their current jobs, or even the unemployment line, for a job that they know may end after only a day, a week or a month?" he added.

He said proponents of the bill say the legislation is needed to curb a recent increase in hiring permanent replacements during strikes.

However, Hatch said statistics from the General Accounting Office, requested by the very ones who wrote the bill, indicate that to be false. He said in 1985 only 4 percent of striking employees' jobs were filled with permanent replacements, and that number dropped down to 3 percent in 1989.

"I'm not against unions. I only hope that they can go back to that old system where they were the best," said Hatch, who belonged to a union for about 10 years while he was associated with a building and construction company.

"These bloc countries are trying to become like us, but they are now realizing more and more that we are steadily becoming how they used to be," Hatch said.

He said if the bill were to become law, he predicts that within 10 years unions would jump in size dramatically because they would win virtually every strike they entered into.

"It would be the beginning of a large and torturous decline of the economy of the United States of America," he said.