WASHINGTON-The Clinton administration will not appeal a federal court reversal of an executive order against companies that hire striker replacements, spokesmen for the Justice and Labor departments said on Sept. 9. This means Bridgestone/Firestone Inc. and its allies won their argument that it is unconstitutional for the president to forbid companies that hire permanent replacements for striking workers from holding federal contracts.
Bridgestone/Firestone was the particular target of the March 8, 1995, executive order, which would have limited it and other striker-replacement companies to federal contracts totaling less than $100,000. The company had just hired 2,300 permanent replacements for 4,000 striking workers.
At the time, BFS estimated it would lose $12 million in government business because of the order.
BFS, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the National Association of Manufacturers, the Labor Policy Association and the American Trucking Associations joined to sue the Clinton administration in the U.S. appeals court for the District of Columbia.
The National Labor Relations Act has allowed striker replacements for six decades, the plaintiffs argued. To change this law is the prerogative of Congress, making Mr. Clinton's executive order unconstitutional.
A three-judge panel ruled for the plaintiffs Feb. 2 of this year, and the full 11-judge court panel upheld that decision 9-2 in May.
In deciding not to take the case to the U.S. Supreme Court, the administration ``concluded that further litigation on the validity of the executive order is not productive,'' Labor Secretary Robert B. Reich said in a prepared statement.
Nevertheless, he insisted on the legality of the order. ``This administration believes that permanently replacing workers who exercise their right to strike makes labor disputes worse for all concerned,'' he said. ``It harms consumers, like the federal government, who rely on employers to provide high-quality goods and services.''
The United Steelworkers of America, which represents the striking BFS workers and supported the executive order, said the administration's decision was regrettable but realistic. ``Clinton did everything he could do,'' a USWA spokesman said.
``So the best way to pursue this is politically, with appropriate legislation passed not only regarding government contractors, but across the board,'' he added.
A Bridgestone/Firestone spokesman said the company was ``pleased'' with the administration's decision and agreed further litigation would be unproductive.
BFS still faces charges from the National Labor Relations Board that its treatment of striking workers violated federal labor laws. That trial is set to begin before a Pittsburgh administrative law judge Oct. 21.