This Week in Labor History: Unleashing the Scabs

May 16, 1938 - The U.S. Supreme Court issued the Mackay decision permitting employers to permanently replace striking workers. The court said management could not fire strikers, but could "permanently replace" them, a distinction without a difference. 

Employers used this weapon sparingly until the 1980s, when its use increased under the influence of the Reagan administration’s anti-union policies. In the '80s, Maine employers notoriously deployed this ruthless tactic to bust unions at Cole's Express in Bangor, the Maine Central Railroad, FMC Marine Colloids in Rockland and the International Paper Company in Jay.