An Iowa constituent asked Sen. Tim Scott (R-S.C.) Monday whether he would get involved in the United Auto Workers strike as president. The Republican presidential candidate responded by praising Ronald Reagan’s firing of federal workers who went on strike.
“I think Ronald Reagan gave us a great example when federal workers decided to strike. He said, “You hit, you’re fired.” “A simple concept for me”, Scott said laughing. “To the extent that we can use it again, absolutely.”
It’s actually not as simple a concept as Scott suggests.
Former President Ronald Reagan fired air traffic controllers when their union, the Professional Air Traffic Controllers Organization, or PATCO, called a strike in 1981. The saga was a pivotal moment in labor relations in the United States, when the federal government let American businesses know that it was out to unions. Since then, collective bargaining in the private sector has continued to decline.
Air traffic controllers were federal workers who did not have the legal right to strike or even negotiate wages with their employer, even if they demanded raises. Reagan acted within his authority when he fired them. The thousands of controllers who participated in the strike were never allowed to return to work.
“‘You hit, you’re fired.’ A simple concept for me.
– Senator Tim Scott
But the UAW strike, which hit Stellantis, the parent company of Ford, General Motors and Jeep, involves negotiations between private sector workers and private sector employers. It is illegal under the National Labor Relations Act to dismiss workers who participated in a legal strike. So far, none of the “Big Three” have claimed that autoworker strikes are illegal.
A spokesperson for Scott said the candidate was not suggesting autoworkers should be fired for striking.
“He was clearly talking about federal workers in that first exchange,” Matt Gorman, the spokesman, said in an email. “Senator Scott has made it clear repeatedly, both at this and other events, that Joe Biden should not leave taxpayers on the hook for any labor deal.”
At the Iowa event, Scott said President Joe Biden, the so-called “most pro-union president” in history, was “praised by unions” and even “bought and paid for” .
The senator then criticized Biden and other Democrats’ decision to save defined benefit pension plans as part of a nearly $2 billion coronavirus aid package in 2021. The plans – negotiated over the years between unions and employers – were about to be implemented. insolvency, and this decision prevented the payment of pensions for around a million workers and retirees.
“When they overpromise, taxpayers should not pay the price,” Scott said. “They find themselves obligated when the president negotiates and adds your money to their pensions, even though you didn’t work for them.”
Scott also appeared to criticize the UAW for demanding significant raises and a reduced work schedule as part of the negotiations.
“(They) want more money working fewer hours,” he said. “They want more benefits by working fewer days. In America…it makes no sense.”
UAW workers are legally known as “economic strikers» ― they are demanding better wages and better working conditions. They cannot be fired, but they can be replaced while they are on strike. And in what unions see as a parody of labor law, this replacement could become permanent. Once the strike is over, and the worker has not found similar work, they can apply for their old job as positions become available, but there is no guarantee that they will return if a worker has taken its place.
It would be a difficult time for Ford, GM and Stellantis to find permanent replacements, even if they wanted to. Workers would need to be trained to replace striking workers in factories, and many employers still have difficulty finding workers. The unemployment rate is near an all-time low, at just 3.8%, despite voters’ bleak economic outlook.
At this point, the UAW appears to have little fear that the strikers will lose their jobs. The union has so far struck at three factories – one each for Ford, GM and Stellantis – but has vowed to strike more if the companies do not improve their offers. UAW President Shawn Fain said Monday that barring a settlement, other targets would be announced Friday.
“We’re going to continue to hit the business where we need to, when we need to,” Fain said. “And we’re not going to wait forever while they drag this out.”
The Huffington Gt