The labor unrest surge has been impacting labor law since the great recession in 2008. In 2018 many employees went on strike right from school teachers to health care officials to hotel workers.
What irked them most was no raises and stagnant company policies. The rampant walkouts globally made people question the difference between a strike and what are the repercussions of the same? Can strikes be legal? So, here are some pertinent questions answered on labor law.
Can you strike or, rather, are you allowed to strike?
Yes, you can certainly, especially if you are working in the private sector and it does not matter whether you are a part of a labor union, but we cannot say the same about government workers.
The NLRA (National Labor Relations Act ) of 1935 endorsed the right to do ‘lawful strikes.’ The matter was brought into focus because the world was reeling from the Great Depression, and the then President Roosevelt’s pro-labor laws counted bargaining together as a fundamental right. But the law counted as a pro-private-sector worker law as they were the ones most at risk for exploitation.
The National Labor Relations Act fought years of federal laws and helped in achieving organized labor and helped employees to organize, make unions, and work with the employers. Striking was the most effective tool in the arsenal for bargaining en masse, and it took a special place in the NLRA. While in includes many laws, what it does not include are laws for the agricultural laborers, public employees, and transportation workers.
Does it apply to everyone?
But it does not apply to all employees. The NLRA rules out certain privileges such as transportation employees, agricultural employees, or public employees. When it came to Government workers, including state, local, and federal, the federal law does not allow them to strike.
There are about eight states in the USA which allow the government workers to come forth and strike. For instance, Illinois and California may allow the teachers to strike, but the rules are different for firefighters and police.
Walkout, strike, or a work stoppage? What’s the difference?
When you take the legal context in mind, there is no difference. They all come under the “protected concerted activity” clause and are an integral part of NLRA. All involve employees working in better working conditions, and it does not matter if the employee is part of a union or not.
There are two types of strikes, economic strike when employees want better benefits, including better pay. The other one is when the employees strike as the employer refuses to follow the labor laws. For instance, employees do not want to work because the company fired two unions leaders as the employees asked the employees to be part of the union. A company cannot retaliate as it goes against the law.
Is it possible for workers to get fired if they go on strike?
No, but what a company can do is hire someone else. The Supreme Court has ruled that companies have to hire replacements to enable the flourishing of the business even while the strike is going on. And after the strike, the replacement employees are allowed to keep their jobs. The employer, in this case, ensures that the employee will get the first chance to take a stab at a job opening next year. But there’s hardly any guarantee.
When is it Illegal?
A strike can be illegal. Yes, that is because a private-sector worker can strike, but they need to abide by certain rules. There are some rule exceptions, however. When it comes to sit-in strikes, it may not get protection under the Federal law.
Sit-in strikes are something when striking workers occupy the workplace seats and don’t allow anyone to come in, predominant in the 1930s. There is also a strike when employees work, but their work pace is significantly low. There is also the start and stop the strike, when employees may strike on and off in a certain period.
Can you lose your job?
An employer, in this case, can fire workers if they indulge in illegal strikes. Union members specifically have limits when it comes to walkouts. Some of the most famous unlawful strikes include the teacher’s strike as it is illegal for teachers to strike in Kentucky, West Virginia and Oklahoma.
The teachers still went right ahead with the strike and got their demands fulfilled. This was possible, however, because they were in large numbers. However, had it been otherwise, the protesting teachers would have lost their jobs.