References: Scab

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SEAN: There won’t be no coal dug out tomorrer.
BRAM: I’ll be diggin’ mine out.
SEAN: Then they’d call you a scab.
BRAM: Let ’em call me a scab. Let ’em call me any damn thing they want.

A strikebreaker (“scab”) is a person who works despite an ongoing strike. Strikebreakers are usually individuals who are not employed by the company prior to the trade union dispute, but rather hired prior to or during the strike to keep production or services going. Strikebreakers may also be workers who cross picket lines and keep working.

Strikebreakers are a worldwide phenomenon, occurring wherever workers go on strike or engage in job actions which slow down or stop the delivery of goods and/or services. However, strikebreakers are used far more frequently in the United States than in any other industrialized country.

Strikebreakers are also known by the derogatory term “scab“. In the early 20th century, strikebreaking was known as “black-legging”—a term borrowed from the Russian socialist movement.

In the United States, the National Labor Relations Act appears to bar strikebreakers as an interference in the right to strike. However, the U.S. Supreme Court held in NLRB v. Mackay Radio & Telegraph Co., (1938) that an employer may not discriminate on the basis of union activity in reinstating employees at the end of a strike. The ruling effectively encourages employers to hire strikebreakers, so that the union loses majority support in the workplace when the strike ends. The Mackay Court also held that employers enjoy the unrestricted right to permanently replace strikers with strikebreakers.


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