CHICAGO (CN) – An employer cannot avoid rehiring striking workers by claiming their replacements as permanent employees, the 7th Circuit ruled.
Fifty-three of the 75 employees at the Jones Plastic and Engineering Co. plant in Camden, Tenn., went on strike in March 2002. They were members of the United Steel, Paper and Forestry, Rubber, Manufacturing, Energy, Allied Industrial and Service Workers International Union.
Jones responded by hiring permanent replacement workers, each of whom signed an agreement stating that they could be fired at any time.
The union caved in four months later with an unconditional offer to return to work. Jones responded that it had a full complement of employees. Eighteen workers agreed to be on a preferential recall list to return to work.
The union then sued Jones for violating the National Labor Relations Act by refusing to reinstate the strikers.
Judge Ripple agreed with the district court that the replacements were not made permanent by the company’s periodic assurances that they held that status.
“These assurances alone did not establish that the employer had a mutual understanding with the replacements that the resolution of the strike would not affect the replacements’ employment status,” the judge ruled.